The Gleaner

Municipality of Godmanchester faces accusations of gross mismanagement

An investigation by the Direction des enquêtes et des poursuites en intégrité municipale (DEPIM) of the Commission municipale du Québec has determined that several contraventions to the Municipal Code have taken place within the municipality of Godmanchester. The official report was tabled during the April 3 regular meeting of the municipal council.

The report, issued by the Commission’s Municipal Integ-
rity Investigations and Prosec-utions Branch (DEPIM) on March 29, contains the Commission’s findings and recommendations following an investigation into disclosures of wrongdoing against the municipality. The Commission has concluded “A wrongful act was committed against the municipality according to paragraphs one and four of article four of the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies, that is to say a contravention of the law and a serious case of mismanagement.”

The Commission states the contraventions, which revolve primarily around allegations that the mayor and municipal councillors interfered with the work of the director general, negatively affected the proper functioning of the municipality and weakened the separation between the administration and politics. As a result, the Commission has recommended a ministerial order be adopted by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Regions, and Land Occupancy that would place the municipality under its control.

Allegations of interference

The report alleges that the work environment at the municipality deteriorated significantly following the 2021 municipal election. According to municipal documents and interviews with witnesses, including the Godmanchester mayor, Pierre Poirier, a system was introduced at the municipality to prevent the director general from carrying out aspects of her job. The report provides examples of situations in which the mayor, as well as council members or a third party, were tasked with carrying out the responsibilities of the director general. Meetings were held with municipal employees in the absence of the director general, contracts to hire municipal employees were awarded by the mayor without a resolution, and the purchase of equipment for the public works department was authorized by the mayor.

Tasks under the management of the director general were also subcontracted to a third party under the supervision of the mayor, including the drafting of minutes, resolutions, bylaws, and regulations, as well as an analysis of the computerized filing system.

The investigation also demonstrates that the administrative structure within the municipality has been greatly affected by this toxic culture of interference. The director general, Elaine Duheme, is currently on leave from the municipality. Jacinthe Murphy was hired by the municipality as an assistant director general in September; however, Duheme’s sudden departure resulted in Murphy being promoted very quickly to interim director general. The report states that despite indications the municipal council is pleased with Murphy’s work, the Commission considers the situation to be quite fragile: “In the current state of affairs, the municipality is highly vulnerable, and the interim director general has been placed in a precarious position.”

The report notes the DEPIM has also been informed of potential breaches to the code of ethics and professional conduct of elected officials that occurred in connection with the present situation. There is a possibility that the DEPIM will launch a separate investigation that could result in citations against certain elected officials in Godmanchester.

The report concludes that it is within the public’s interest that the situation be corrected quickly “in order to realign the municipal council in terms of its rights and obligations, and to ensure the cooperation of all such that the municipal administration is able to adequately carry out its mandate.”

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