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Second Integrity Commissioner report regarding Mayor Isbester ruffles feathers among Council

Mayor Marg Isbester, centre, sits quietly as Greater Napanee council discusses the report from the Integrity Commissioner regarding two complaints made against the Mayor.

Greater Napanee Mayor Marg Isbester will keep her seat at the head of the table, but with a vote of 4:1 it’s clear that she does not have council’s full support.

Integrity Commissioner Laura Dean provided council with a summary of two complaints made against the Mayor during Tuesday’s regular council meeting. A previous article detailing the report and the complaints can be read here: https://www.kingstonist.com/news/integrity-commissioner-report-napanee-mayor-threat-to-residents/ 

Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser chaired the presentation by the Integrity Commissioner and council’s discussion. Once Dean shared her report and recommendations, and before Kaiser opened the floor to council, he gave Isbester the opportunity to address council. Isbester did so with many apologies.

“With complainant #2 (Huber Hogle), I have and will again, apologize,” Isbester said. “These are statements that should not have been made in any context, in any setting, and by anyone in my position as mayor. To staff and council I apologize for putting them in this position,” Isbester said.

She shared a more reserved apology for complainant #1, Randy Vollick.

“I apologize if the complainant felt I was being uncivil or hostile, it was not my intention. …. I will say with my conviction that I did not make the comment that complaint #1 has cited. But as I told the Integrity Commissioner: with the conditions and the day I may have been less than polite,” said Isbester. 

“In no way am I going to attempt to either diminish or excuse the findings of the Integrity Commissioner,” Isbester said, before Kaiser opened the floor up to council.

Mayor Isbester sat quietly as each councillor shared concerns, made statements, asked questions to Dean and to council, and discussed recommendations. 

Though more than one councillors alluded to the idea of Mayor Isbester resigning, only one councillor directly asked Isbester to resign as Mayor. That statement was made by retired police officer, Coun. Norrie.

“I’m going to ask you, Mayor, to do the honourable thing to step down as Mayor so we can continue to move forward as a positive, respected members of this council in this town,” Norrie said, sitting next to Isbester. 

“I really don’t see how we could go forward with this cloud over our head. It’s very difficult for this council to carry on with its duties,” said Norrie, adding that each councillor has taken an oath to serve its community with integrity. “We’re in the public eye and in a small town you’re always in the public eye.”

Coun. Richardson said the Town had been “tainted” by Isbester appearing before the Integrity Commissioner twice in one month, and that he felt this was “rock bottom” for council. Coun. Pinnell added that the Mayor has brought “negative” and “unwanted” media attention to the Town that he says is “embarrassing.” 

Deputy Mayor Kaiser appeared torn when he made his statement, citing that he and Isbester have had a longtime professional relationship and personal friendship but that her actions were certainly not acceptable. 

“You’re a friend and I’ll always have your back. I certainly don’t want any of this to be any part of your legacy. You’ve done so much good and you’ve sat 11 years on council to date. And you’ve put your heart and soul … into the council,” said Kaiser. He spoke highly of Isbester’s extracurricular support to the community, both on and off of council and other volunteer roles. 

“I don’t think it would be fair for you to be remembered by this …  but it’s what happened after that really, I guess, really got you in trouble, and I think you know that very clearly. The challenge that we have is to find an action that is both fair, but adequate. I think council, right now, is struggling with that,” said Kaiser.

Following that statement, Coun. Richardson moved a lengthy motion, which included written apologies to the complainants, council, and staff; as well as directing “that Mayor Isbester work with a staff-appointed counselor or coach to address the threatening behaviour that was identified in the Integrity Commission report.” The motion also included education for the Mayor regarding interactions with/on social media. The motion was seconded by Coun. Johnson and carried by council, with Coun. Norrie opposed. Following the motion, Mayor Isbester resumed her seat and chaired the remainder of the council meeting. 

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