CORNWALL, Ontario – A city councillor has breached a confidentiality agreement concerning municipal works employees who were disciplined last year.
A highly-placed source told Seaway News an arbitrator has ruled the city must pay $1,500 each to four employees by way of compensation, after Coun. Andre Rivette made public comments last summer concerning the incident.
City CAO Norm Levac later confirmed the arbitrator’s decision and the award amount.
The source, who did not wish to be identified because they are not authorized to speak on the subject, could not get into specifics concerning the timing of the infraction, though Seaway News has confirmed it is related to media reports from last summer.
In late August last year the Standard-Freeholder ran a story quoting Rivette who at the time confirmed five employees in the city’s municipal works department had been fired, but that two were returning.
In the same article Rivette railed against the city for having confusing rules when it comes to the use of municipally-owned vehicles for personal use.
In an interview Thursday with this newspaper Rivette was forthright.
“If there was a clause like that in there, either I didn’t know, or I didn’t care,” he said. “The secrecy has to stop.”
Rivette, who recently won re-election by 427 votes to reach the 10th and final council spot, campaigned on a promise of more openness at city hall.
“I am not going to abide by something that administration signed, tying my hands,” he suggested.
But it appears in this case his comments will cost the city some money, a total of $6,000.
The incident began in 2013 when the city dismissed a collection of municipal works employees in a case of time theft. The punishment was grieved by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and a settlement was reached. The settlement included a confidentiality agreement.
Two of the employees returned to work, while the balance chose to retire.
But, the public comments in August, 2013 made by Rivette sparked the interest of the union, which filed a complaint and led to the arbitrator’s decision, a source confirmed.
City council is expected to be briefed on the file Monday night during its in-camera session.
City councillors who did not wish to be named confirmed the Standard-Freeholder story sparked the ire of the arbitrator.
It is unclear how long the city has to pay the award.
The five individuals disciplined last year were sub-foremen, who oversee work completed by rank and file members of the municipal works department.
The city has not commented publicly on the dismissals, though last year CAO Norm Levac indicated, in response to general questions, that the corporation takes complaints surrounding time theft seriously.
In 2013 the City of Hamilton turfed nearly 30 employees in its public works department for time theft, neglect of duty and breach of trust.
Managers in that city used GPS installed in municipal vehicles to track the whereabouts of employees and launch an investigation.
Many Cornwall municipal vehicles, up to and including police cruisers, are outfitted with GPS units.