• James Armstrong

Saint-Lazare council confronts questions on caucus exclusion


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Residents including Marc-André Esculier expressed their concerns regarding the exclusion of Councillor Richard Chartrand from caucus.

The recent decision of Saint-Lazare’s town council to exclude District 5 Councillor Richard Chartrand from caucus meetings for an undetermined length of time was the topic for discussion during the question period of the monthly council meeting held Tuesday, April 9.

Excluded from caucus

For some residents, the issue was whether Chartrand would be able to carry out his duties as councillor if he wasn’t present for caucus meeting discussions. Others wanted to know the details of the situation.

To all those queries, Mayor Robert Grimaudo responded, “Mr. Chartrand has all the tools available to him and access to all the information he requires to be involved in the decision-making process and he has been encouraged to do so.”

The decision to exclude Chartrand was council’s response to reported aggressive behaviour Chartrand displayed toward members of the administration and council regarding the administration’s decision not to provide town employees to help out with a HEMA Québec blood drive sponsored by, and held at, Bar Chez Maurice.

During the discussion, Director General Serge Tremblay made the point the bar is a business owned by Councillor Chartrand and it was deemed to be a conflict of interest under Quebec law for the town to continue its support of the event as it had in the past.

Resident and former town councillor Marc-André Esculier asked if HEMA Québec had officially requested support from the town. He put emphasis on the point that under Politique 28 of the town, it was council’s responsibility to approve that type of decision.

“If a member of the administration made that decision without council’s approval, then they should be fired,” he said. The mayor responded that an official request had not been received from HEMA Québec.

“That’s a policy of the town for providing subsidies and support to community groups. It’s not a regulation.” Town Clerk Nathaly Rayneault added the policy had also been amended since its adoption. Grimaudo said council had discussed the issue in February or March of 2018 and had agreed at the time it was inappropriate for the town to continue to supply the event with workers.

Contrite councillor

Councilor Chartrand agreed that his behaviour had been unacceptable in response to finding out about the decision not to support his event.

“I have apologized to everyone and I am getting the help I need with my issues,” he told The Journal in an interview Monday, April 8.

“I really shot myself in both feet with my reaction and now I really regret it,” he said, describing his behavior as “very aggressive.” During the question period, Chartrand added he had offered to participate with an arbitrator in attempt to bring all those involved back to the caucus table.

“That was refused,” he said.

“Certain behaviours are unacceptable,” said the mayor adding he would not respond personally for Chartrand. “The fact that he does not participate at caucus was a council decision not an administrative one.”

The situation with Chartrand sparked questions about the recent resignation of District 3 Councillor Martin Couture. In response, Councillor Pamela Tremblay said all of the councillors were there to represent all the citizens of Saint-Lazare. When asked why Couture had resigned, the mayor said he could not speak for the former councillor. “It was for personal reasons,” he said adding that it was Couture’s responsibility to explain his decision to his electorate.

A by-election for District 3 is scheduled for Sunday, June 9. Details regarding the process to run as a candidate are available on the town’s website.

When asked on Wednesday, April 10 if council is able to function and run the town, the mayor responded, “Town council is functioning very well. All the files are being dealt with and good decisions are being made.”

Chaline Valley landslide prevention project

Resident Richard Meades raised the issue of the ongoing project to stabilize the potential landslide areas in the Chaline Valley along the banks of the Quinchien River. He took issue with the cost of hiring an engineering firm to oversee the project.

“Have you found anyone to do it?” he asked the mayor. Grimaudo said one engineering firm had responded to the call for tenders. When Meades asked what was involved in overseeing the project, the mayor invited him to make an appointment with the DG to review the details of the contract. Although not discussed at the council meeting, Saint-Lazare issued an announcement on Monday, April 8 that drone inspections of the Chaline Valley landslide area would resume that day and continue until Friday, June 14. Further information is available on the town’s website.

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