CORNWALL, Ontario – South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGilis has come out swinging after remaining silent on a report that warned him against losing his temper during an interaction with a resident – and he suggests a "smear campaign" is at work among some to ruin his reputation.
McGillis, who initially told Seaway News he would not comment on a report that included a warning from integrity commissioner Robert Swayze, changed tack Thursday and said it's time to clear the air.
"Today is the day that I have to respond to this nonsense," he said in a candid interview. "This is just a campaign from a handful of people to try and smear my name…and as far as I'm concerned it's going to backfire on them."
Neil Stewart, a Long Sault resident, asserts that he and McGillis became embroiled in an altercation in April at a political breakfast. Both he and McGilis contend the other peppered the exchanged with some cursing.
Stewart filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner over the matter – which McGillis now suggests is the work of a collection of individuals who want to see him defeated in the looming municipal election.
"It was a matter of two individuals engaged in a discussion that Mr. Neil Stewart instigated," McGillis said.
Swayze agrees. In correspondence to Stewart, Swayze suggests the elderly man started the exchange by pointing a finger at the mayor and offering a disparaging remark.
"I approached the individual and asked him what problem he had with me," said McGillis. "He told me he thought I was ruining the township.
"I asked him how did he personally feel I was doing that and he could not respond, because I guess there was nothing to respond to. I guess it was just more misleading information by a member of council. But I felt it was necessary to rectify. It's not true – it's absolutely asinine."
That member of council is Tammy Hart, the deputy mayor. Hart and McGillis have been at odds for years.
"This is not just Mr. Stewart acting alone," said McGilis. "He's even admitted…that it wasn't only him that is working, that wrote letters. He admitted he had help. And I know who helped him. It's a smear campaign with a group of individuals that Tammy Hart has aligned herself with. And it's ridiculous.
"And the integrity commissioner admitted that as well. People have to grow up."
Hart was having none of it when contacted by Seaway News.
"That's totally ridiculous," she said. "It's got nothing to do with me.
"For him to point a finger at me, that's pretty low."
And Hart denied coercing anyone to stir the political pot in South Stormont.
"(Stewart) is a strong-minded individual," she said. "He took it upon himself."
McGillis admitted his strategy of keeping mum on the subject has run its course.
"I've been staying quiet about the whole thing," he said. "I've always taken the high road and let it go away, but it just seems to resurface and the wheels keep spinning. But it's time that I come out and give my side. It's not fair that just one side…this issue should never have been brought to the forefront.
"People are tired of listening to the rhetoric. People are tired of listening to negativity. Our township is in the best position financially and economically than it has ever been. We're doing a great job and I'm proud of the achievements we've done."