Council issues reprimand to Coun. Kinach

Ward 4 Councillor Stephan Kinach received a verbal reprimand from Mayor Matthew Shoemaker Monday for controversial comments he made about city staff at City Council’s March 18 meeting.

At that March meeting, Kinach, during a discussion of a staff study regarding the hiring and use of consultants, suggested staff had rubber-stamped the spending on, and the hiring of, outside firms.

The following is a transcription of Coun. Kinach’s comments and a reply from the Mayor, from March 18. 

Coun. Kinach:

“Maybe we can just hire consultants to do all City work. Overall, I am disappointed and upset with this report. The people told council to rein in spending. Council told staff to reflect on the use of consultants and instead of using this as a chance of reflection on past spending and hiring. CAO Vair, you just rubber-stamped and defended all the spending and hiring with this report.

Out of $11 million and hundreds of consulting contracts given out, I find it hard to believe that you could not find one that didn’t align with best practices, or required more scrutiny. 

Fellow councillors, this report discards us and our constituents we represent. This completely ignores the whole democratic process because this report is evidence that staff is working against council and Saultites.

They were directed by council to make consulting a line item in the budget and they ignored it and instead we are just accepting it as information.”

Mayor Shoemaker’s response, in part: 

“Councillor Kinach, they actually weren’t directed to make consulting a line item in the budget. We asked them to develop a plan to make consulting fees a line item in the budget within each department and that we asked them to report by the end of Q-1, to summarize the purposes for that each of the city’s 10 main service areas used consultants. Both of those were done.    

The report that came back from Mr. Vair, explained I think rather clearly, why it would be difficult to separate those out. Now it is separated out and there’s a couple of specific instances where the use of consultants is prevalent, like engineering.

If you specifically wanted staff to make consulting fees a line item within the budget you could bring a motion that directs specifically that to happen and have council vote on that proposal.

It may or not pass, but if it does, CAO Vair and the rest of the administration would have no choice but to do that. We’ve got that authority. But that is not what we approved from the last resolution.

To suggest that staff is working against council is, frankly, beyond the pale. There is a great team of dedicated employees here. We don’t always agree with them. I, and Mr. Vair have had significant disagreement over the downtown plaza is one example in the past. But I know that in every recommendation that he’s brought forward he is doing as council directed him to do, which was to bring forward proposals on the development of that project. The majority of council approved that. Had they at any point, had they said to stop, he would have stopped and worked on other priorities that council had directed them to, as would every person around this table.

You will definitely get further working with staff, to try and achieve the goals you want than you will by, frankly, giving them a tongue-lashing because the report doesn’t align exactly with what you think it ought to align with.”

Following the March 18 meeting, Kinach was asked by both CAO Tom Vair and Mayor Shoemaker to apologize for his remarks, at the next council meeting (held last night).

Coun. Kinach contacted the Integrity Commissioner’s office and filed a Request for Advice. Kinach also sent emails between himself, Vair and Shoemaker to the Commissioner’s office.

Commissioner Antoinette Blount replayed the footage of the exchange from the March 18 meeting and contacted Kinach by phone to discuss the matter with him. 

The Commissioner found the councillor had “made several remarks about staff that were found to be inappropriate and contrary to the Code of Conduct.”

The Integrity Commissioner pointed to a specific section of the Code that, as a representative of the city “Councillor Kinach has the duty and responsibility to treat staff appropriately and not use insulting words or expressions.”

Blount’s recommended sanction was for Kinach to apologize at a meeting of council. 

Kinach, in his first term as a councillor, told council he would not offer a public apology and said he wanted to apologize privately. 

In lieu of the recommended sanction by Integrity Commissioner Blount, and Kinach’s refusal to follow through with a public apology, council found itself in a rare – and for some quite awkward – position of having to discipline one of their own. 

City Solicitor Karen Fields told council there were three possible sanctions: reprimand, suspension of pay for up to 90 days, or an apology.

Mayor Shoemaker told council, “We got to where we are tonight, because the Integrity Commissioner, at Councillor Kinach’s request, was asked to determine if his conduct breached the Code of Conduct, when he said staff was working against council and Saultites.”

Shoemaker remarked that the issue came with costs, including for the Integrity Commissioner, and lost time for council dealing with the matter rather than other issues. 

Council was left with two options, said the Mayor, and a reprimand was suitable. 

Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni favoured sending the issue back to the office of the Integrity Commissioner.

“I have seen worse,” said Bruni. “I won’t won’t for or against, but I will vote to bring this back to the Integrity Commissioner. I don’t think it’s council’s responsibility. We’re supposed to be working together.”

Several councillors expressed disappointment that Kinach had chosen not to apologize publicly.

Ward 2 Coun. Luke Dufour said he was “disappointed that my colleague has chosen not to provide an apology that would have been simple to do so.”

Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo said she made her feelings known to Coun. Kinach prior to the meeting. 

“I had no issue with him probing the use of consultants,” said Caputo.

“I do have a major issue with the manner he addressed city staff. I’m disappointed he chose not to apologize and end this. This issue is eclipsing city business.”

Caputo told Kinach she would still like to see him apologize and offered to assist him with reports or comments going forward.

Coun. Kinach, who supported the reprimand, said at one point he did draft an apology, but found he couldn’t bring himself to read it aloud, even at home. He said his remarks were not personal, and that “it was just the process.”

The motion to issue Kinach a reprimand carried by a 7-3 vote.

Mayor Shoemaker offered his final remarks on the episode.

“Coun. Kinach…you said yourself you would be more polished and courteous in your words. That’s all we’re asking you to do. Nobody is keen on having to go through this process.

Continue questioning staff. Absolutely. I don’t want to make it as though there’s any restriction on your ability to do so. But when you do so, come at it from the position that they must be treated with respect.”

3 thoughts on “Council issues reprimand to Coun. Kinach

  1. The only man in the building that tells the truth and doesn’t need to be reprimanded gets reprimanded. Go figure. Very typical of this useless city hall and it’s round table of inept morons that should all resign in shame for squandering what little the city can muster on the long dead downtown while all of the REAL issues continue to be swept under the rug.
    The housing, crime, drug and violence problems continue to grow by the day.
    It’s unlikely that they will ever get their priorities straight and will continue to struggle as the city continues to shrink.

  2. Vair is the tail that wags the dog…
    He did with the previous administration as a then deputy CAO…
    Now he’s the head cheese.

    I’m glad someone ( even in house ) is trying to keep them honest. Unfortunately we all know how this is going to go down.

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