Mayor Williams denies using personal email for Town business

September 14, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

It only took 45 minutes for Monday night’s Orangeville Council meeting to descend into chaos as Mayor Jeremy Williams became embroiled in a bitter battle of words with a local resident.

In what initially promised to be a fairly tame evening in council chambers, Mayor Williams let loose on the resident, Todd Taylor, taking exception to claims that he had conducted municipal business via a personal email account on social media last month.

Approaching the podium during question period, Mr. Taylor asked if he could address an item slated to come up later that evening during council correspondence. The issue is based around a post Mayor Williams made to Facebook on Aug. 14, asking local residents who were affected by this summer’s extensive flooding to provide information relating to damages sustained so that he could lobby the provincial government for disaster relief funding, much the same as neighbouring communities such as Grand Valley and Mono had been successful in doing just weeks previously.

That post read: “I need your help to help others! I need to know who was hit by the recent floods. If you were directly affected, please email me the following information: date, damage done, address, cost (and what if any was covered by insurance) … Please provide this info as soon as possible, even if you can only provide partial info… Send this to:”

Mr. Taylor stated that while the mayor’s intentions may well have been honourable and sincere in making that post, they were completely unnecessary, as municipal staff were themselves in the process of rolling out a press release asking residents to do the very same thing, just in a more official format. Mr. Taylor also took exception to the mayor’s request that residents submit the information to his personal email address, rather than his municipal account.

“As I recall, Councillor Kidd put forward a motion to council regarding the use of email addresses for council… It’s against a policy put forth by this council, one that states members of council must use their Town email when conducting official Town business,” Mr. Taylor said. “I think it odd that (the mayor) would act in a blatant way against a policy set forth by Council.”

The mayor responded by stating that his initial post, released a day before Town staff was able to roll out its own information package  was edited “almost immediately” after links to the online survey put up by the Town became available. He too took exception to some of Mr. Taylor’s wording, also calling him out for not including what he says was an edited version of the Facebook post in his correspondence to council. This post on social media has since been removed.

Attempting to move on with the meeting, Mayor Williams’ and Mr. Taylor’s discussion came to a somewhat amicable end before Coun. Scott Wilson chimed in seeking some clarification from the mayor.

“In our council package tonight there is an excerpt with your name on it. I’m assuming you wrote it. In this posting, it says you are asking for information, then you request that people send this to,” Coun. Wilson said. “Did you write that?”

“There is more to it,” Mayor Williams responded.

“Did you write that asking people to use that email?” Coun. Wilson again queried.

“That address was changed almost immediately,” the Mayor replied.

“Did you use that email address?” Coun. Wilson pursued.

“No. I only use Orangeville… Sorry, for any emails,” Mayor Williams said.

“Except on this post,” Coun. Wilson fired back.

When Coun. Wilson continued again, asking whether the mayor had told people to send information to an email not authorized for official Town use, Mayor Williams responded with a firm “No.” This prompted questions from Coun. Wilson regarding the authenticity of the document, to which the mayor once again called Mr. Taylor to the podium.

“I did not change (this document), in any way, shape or form. It’s odd to me that you would deny this when you have put it out there on Facebook,” Mr. Taylor said. “What you’ve done is inappropriate and to deny that you’ve put your personal email address on there is a lie.”

“No, you are inappropriate, sir. You are inappropriate,” Mayor Williams retorted. “You, sir, lied when you said I put personal emails out there. You, sir, lied. You’re jumping all over the place. You’re sinking and the quicksand is going to eat your up, sir.”

Mr. Taylor went on to assert that the mayor was being dishonest, which did not sit well.

“This is the pattern you’ve had when you pretended to be a reporter and you made stuff up and twisted things. We both know you’re running for election… Sorry, sir, but you’re out of order. You have no respect for the Chair,” Mayor Williams said.

Mr. Taylor, a Citizen columnist, went on to call Mr. Williams a “pretend mayor” before calling on the rest of council to chime in with their thoughts. He also shot down the mayor’s claim that he would be running for council during next year’s election, stating that while he would “love to do it,” his work commitments meant he would not have the time required to be a truly effective member of council.

Having kept quiet for much of the encounter, Coun. Don Kidd suggested simply that all members of council should adhere to the policy they voted in favour of last August, which states that all municipal business should be conducted through the proper channels.

“I think it’s really important that we do this. I hope that nobody else has to come to council to bring this issue up again, that certain members of council are not following the policy,” Coun. Kidd said. “I don’t want to beat this to death, but I believe when the notice of motion comes along I possibly will be asking Town staff to look into helping you, or council members who wish to be active on social media to use your Town address only to connect to others.”

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