Jan Harder resigns from the committee when the gloves fall off in the city council

grev. Jan Harder has resigned from his influential role as chairman of the committee responsible for urban planning and development in Ottawa, but that did not dampen the harsh bitterness surrounding the integrity commissioner’s report on the longtime councilor – a rare sight during this city council term. .

On Wednesday, Harder’s council colleagues were put to the vote on sanctions recommended in a condemning 101-page report by Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau, who found that Barrhaven councilor violated the councilor’s code of conduct.

Among other things, Harder created a perceived conflict of interest by hiring registered lobbyist Jack Stirling and his daughter to work for her office, while Stirling represented private planning clients at City Hall and even personally represented them on the committee Harder chaired.

Harder dismissed the tension as announcing her immediate resignation from the committee before the vote, telling her colleagues that “hyperaggressive online attacks and libel directed at me and others since Friday threaten to curb urban planning work that must continue in the planning committee.”

The mayor’s proposal would waive other sanctions

Immediately after Harder announced his resignation, Mayor Jim Watson made a proposal for advice to accept the Commissioner’s integrity report, but it would waive many of the sanctions in the report and would not officially acknowledge Harder did anything wrong.

The mayor’s proposal contained no reprimand for Harder, she would not have to reimburse the city for her legal costs, she would not have 15 days’ salary, and she would not have to declare $ 12,000 free services as a benefit on the city’s gift registry.

Many city council members wanted no part of it. Council members Catherine McKenney and Diane Deans went so far as to accuse the mayor of creating a different set of rules for different council members, depending on whether they were part of his inner circle.

“So what you’re asking the council to do on behalf of the people we represent in this city is basically not saying anything – nothing went wrong here?” asked McKenney, who represents Somerset Congregation.

“It’s OK that we have a registered lobbyist for the city of Ottawa who also works on a contract at a councilor’s office who is also chairman of the planning committee?”

The dean said approving Watson’s proposal would cause the public to lose faith in the city council “and with good reason.”

“If you are honestly a member of the Watson Club, there are no consequences for your actions,” Deans said.

“If it were a whole bunch of other city councilors not taking their direction from you at every single vote, there would be no doubt that the recommendations of this integrity commissioner would be fully applied.”

grev. Diane Deans accused Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson of favoring some city council members over others based on whether they follow in his footsteps. (CBC)

Taxpayers on the hook for attorneys’ fees

As it looked like Watson’s proposal would not be adopted, Coun said. Jenna Sudds moved on to add that Harder be reprimanded, which is a public acknowledgment that the councilor did something wrong. The proposal was then adopted by 14 to 9.

Harder will not have to declare the $ 12,000 on the gift register – essential because councilors are not allowed to receive gifts from registered lobbyists – nor will she lose 15 days’ salary, as recommended in the report.

Harder, who has chaired the planning committee since 2014, also does not have to repay his attorney’s fees, which totaled $ 7,100 at the end of April. The final number will increase.

In her resignation, Harder stood by her claim that she did nothing wrong but decided to resign due to harassment she has received since the report was released last Friday, adding that the issue distracted the important work of the planning committee.

“There was no breach of employment practices, no breach of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and no evidence of any conflict of interest,” she said.

During his appearance on City Council, Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau stood by his 101-page report to Coun. Jan Harder. (Kate Porter / CBC)

Marleau stands by the report

Marleau stood by his report while appearing on city council, including the recommendations. He explained that a perceived conflict of interest, which has been in the code of conduct since 2013, is the “most difficult situation to explain”, as one has to evaluate each situation on one’s own merits and in one’s own context.

The Council endorsed Marleau’s recommendations to review the Code of Conduct and provide guidance to councilors hiring consultants and registered lobbyists. However, the council voted against a proposal put forward by the county council. Carol Anne Meehan to review all planning files involving The Stirling Group.

grev. Shawn Menard also successfully put forward a proposal that staff should look into introducing a “cooling-off period” in which members of council and city staff would be banned from lobbying the city.

These issues will be part of the management review at the start of the next Council term in 2022.

Everything in one day11:43Barrhaven councilor Jan Harder resigns from the planning committee

City Hall Reporter Kate Porter talks to us about Councilor Jan Harder’s resignation from the Planning Committee and what the council had to say about a judgmental integrity commissioner’s report on the councilor’s relationship with The Stirling Group. 11:43

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