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Riding out the storm in Dundee

The mayor of Dundee says the results of an investigation into the municipality, by the Direction des enquêtes et des pursuits en intégrité municipale (DEPIM) of the Commission municipale du Québec, have left her and municipal council members feeling disappointed and demotivated.

Issued by the Commission’s Municipal integrity investigations and prosecutions branch (DEPIM) on September 9, the report concludes there were irregularities in the management of the municipality between November 2020 and March 2021, specifically around the way decisions were made and recorded during council meetings. A list of recommendations, including a suggestion that council members and municipal staff be updated on the legal framework of the Municipal Code, and that the municipality review its practices concerning the management of public meetings, were included with the report.

In a phone interview with The Gleaner, Dundee mayor Linda Gagnon acknowledges that upon first reading, the report comes across as quite severe. “I recognize that we are not perfect,” she says, but insists there was never any attempt by herself or the members of council to be non-transparent or to prevent citizens from knowing what was being decided during council meetings. Gagnon says that while she is taking the report very seriously, she feels the strictness of the recommendations suggests the infractions may have been blown out of perspective in media reports.

“We did not hold a caucus previously,” says Gagnon, noting it was the Ministry of Municipal Affairs that encouraged the municipality to hold caucus sessions prior to their formal council meetings. “We tried to do things to the best of our ability,” she maintains, suggesting that the period in question was during the earlier months in the pandemic, when council meetings had to be recorded. “It was hard, and the council was not comfortable with this,” she says, noting that outside the five months covered by the report, the municipality has been managed correctly.

She says the report stems from a complaint filed against the municipality. “We are receiving a complaint or request for information almost every week,” she says, suggesting that while the vast majority of residents are content with the municipality and its services, “There are those who are not happy.”

Gagnon says that by December all the recommendations from the report will have been put in place. The municipality is also expected to approve the hiring a new director general at an upcoming meeting. She says she hopes that once the present storm passes, the efforts of the council over the past five years will not have been lost.

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