An already divided council for the Town of Teulon became even more fractured when council members introduced motions to limit the role of mayor Debbie Kozyra at its monthly council meeting on July 9.
Two by-law amendments, a motion to limit communication from Kozyra and another to censure were all voted on by council at the meeting.
Changes to both the town’s procedural and organizational by-laws to effectively removing Kozyra both passed first reading. The second and third readings of the by-law amendments will be made at the next council meeting on Aug. 13.
A motion for council-staff communications to go through deputy mayor Michael Ledarney instead of Kozyra, which accused her of behaviour “intended to intimidate, offend, defame and humiliate members of the staff,” passed by a 3-2 margin with Ledarney and councillors Danny Hutchinson and Rey Girardin supporting the motion. Kozyra and councillor Barb Mankewich were the two dissenting votes. The motion to censure Kozyra for breaching the Council Code of Conduct was defeated when it did not receive the four ‘yes’ votes needed to pass. With the exception of the mayor who abstained, the other four council members voted the same way. Kozyra asked for both votes to be recorded.
After the public council meeting, Ledarney posted a press release on the town’s website, which explained the actions taken by members of council and further accused the mayor of wrongdoing. In the release, the deputy mayor claimed that Kozyra made inaccurate and negative comments about town employees and other council members in public forums, refused to sign legal documents or proceed to take action on matters previously approved by council for personal reasons, attempted to incur legal fees on behalf of the town without council authorization, and engaged with outside parties on issues that affect the town before consulting with council members or committees.
Ledarney told The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times that the council members’ actions were a last resort, but did not elaborate on the accusations against Kozyra.
“We came to this conclusion, the majority of council, not because of any one thing but a whole series of events and decisions that were made over the past eight months,” he said. “It just got to the point where we collectively decided (that) action had to be taken.”
He also defended the press release by saying it was the best way to get the councillors’ message across and that the accusations made are separate from the legal proceedings related to Kozyra’s election expenses, which raised questions with council early this year.
“We have attempted to solve this amongst ourselves, including an in-camera session,” Ledarney said. “The purpose of it was to clear the air and try to reset council and that did not work.”
He further claimed that infighting amongst the mayor and council has divided the community and delayed important town and inter-municipal business from moving forward. While Ledarney wants to see these issues resolved, this does not include removing Kozyra from her position as mayor.
“We feel that restricting and removing some of those responsibilities that the position of mayor has is a way we can attempt to move forward,” he said. “Showing we can make progress after this and moving forward on initiatives and ideas for the betterment of the community, that’s the only way we can move forward.”
Kozyra commented to The Argus and Times on July 15 that the press release was unauthorized and any communication from the town must be passed by council through resolution or by-law.