CORNWALL, Ontario - Please find below the complete statement issued Monday by former city councillor Leslie O'Shaughnessy.
For immediate release.
As most are aware, I resigned my position as an elected member of City Council on April 10, 2012. On April 4, 2012 I met with the city solicitor to outline my reasons for my untimely departure and to explain my concerns for the way the people’s business was being conducted. At that meeting I voluntarily indicated to him that I would not make a public statement giving the reasons for submitting my resignation. I did this to protect the integrity of work that Council was about to begin. This work was to be conducted behind closed doors and the estimated time for completion was June 2012; however, unforeseen circumstances extended the time frame. I now understand that the work has been completed or at least advanced to the stage that will allow me to provide my statement.
The comments that I will be making are mine and mine alone and should not be considered as those of any other member of Council nor should it call into question their integrity or their commitment to the people that they represent. As individuals we set our own level of understanding of what “accountability” and “transparency” means...because my understanding may be different, it should not and does not make mine right nor theirs wrong.
The simple answer to the question of why I resigned is that I felt that I could no longer be accountable for the decisions that were being made during closed door meetings. Without accountability there cannot be transparency. During my tenure on City Council, I can show that I was lied to, that I had been mislead on various issues, and that information that was pertinent to the decision-making process was wilfully withheld.
While sitting as a Member of Council from December 11, 2010 until April 10, 2012, I literally spent more time conducting the people’s business in closed sessions than in meetings that were open to the public.
In December of 2010 I was made aware that an envelope addressed to me was dropped off at City Hall, and was withheld at the direction of another Council member. I later learned that this happened twice. Subsequent to this event, I received a copy by email.
In January 2011 I was asked to make a decision on whether the City of Cornwall should plead guilty or not guilty to charges filed by MOHLTC against the City, regarding retaliation against a whistleblower that came forward over an issue at GSDL. I was not provided any written documentation or recommendation from administration to make this decision, and I was also told that there was no documentation (dating back to 2008-2009 when the incident occurred) that I could review to help me understand what happened. I was then given the opportunity to ask any questions that I might have to Legal Counsel that was in attendance. I had no knowledge of the issue, no information, no recommendation from staff, no written legal opinion to review – only individual verbal accounts of what happened that were inconsistent...and Council was advised that it had to make a decision that night.
As you are well aware Council voted to plead not guilty – to this day I am still confused as to how that decision was made.
Over the next eight months, while dealing with the issues surrounding this case, there were never any written reports or recommendations from administration, provided.
In April, May and June of 2011 I began walking out of closed sessions and refused to vote on any issues that did not have accompanying reports. I believe that reports are the lifeline for Council because if accountability becomes an issue, there is a paper trail that contains the information that was used to make the decision... without supporting documentation, how can you defend that decision?
In September, and only after I had a meeting with a Council member and an individual from administration, I was assured that all closed door issues would be presented to Council with a report and recommendation.
The first such report and recommendation provided to Council was in regards to the escalating legal costs associated to the charges brought forward by the Ministry. Council, in a public release, indicated that they would be changing their plea to guilty because of costs... I agreed to change our plea, not because of cost, but because I had become convinced that the City of Cornwall was guilty. The City of Cornwall plead guilty to a statement of facts and none of those facts were related to cost.
October, November, and December was probably the most disappointing period in my political career. After receiving court documents relating to the court proceedings Council began another round of closed door meetings. During these meetings I witnessed continuous neglect of the Ontario Municipal Act, direction given by Council not followed, and direct political and administrative interference occurred pertaining to motions passed by Council. The most disturbing issue was the realization that legal advice received in January 2011, in my mind, became questionable. It is my opinion that the City of Cornwall may not have been represented in accordance with the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), that lawyers are required to follow. I am also aware that a complaint was filed with the LSUC in regards to this case and I know for fact there will be another filed in due time.
In December of 2011 during an interview with Le Journal I publically apologized to the whistleblower in this case, Mrs. Diane Shay, for the political and administrative abuse I felt she had suffered. At that time I was also considering my resignation, but decided to wait to see if things would change. They did not.
From January until April 10, 2012 things did not improve, as a matter of fact things got much worse. I found out on a media website that the City of Cornwall was threatening legal action against that media website, and as a member of Council, I was unaware of this. In a closed session, I was witness to an individual Council member being singled out and intimidated by some members of Council for doing what every member should do... inform the public. This councillor fought back...the public knows who that Councillor is, it was ruled by the city integrity commissioner that he had done nothing wrong. This Councillor’s family, friends, and supporters, and in fact every rate payer in the city of Cornwall, should be proud of the contribution this man has made and continues to make to his community.
Recently I was provided the opportunity to voice my concerns, and vent my frustration in an interview that was confidential. The interview lasted seven hours. There is so much more I would like to say publically, and to explain fully all the concerns that I have, but I must be guarded on my comments because everything that led to my resignation happened behind closed doors .Upon release of this statement I will have fulfilled my promise to explain my reasons for leaving Council and as of today I have finished this chapter of my life and will move on.
In closing I would like to inform the media that I will not be granting any interviews or offering any further comments at this time. I have returned to my private and business life and wish everyone the very best as we move forward.