Councillors Spar Over Radio Interview

Comments made by a London Councillor on the radio led to fireworks at City Hall on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, Councillor Joni Baechler was a guest on a local radio talk show. During the interview, she said she doesn’t think everyone on city council deserves a proposed 1% raise. She said there are some councillors who work hard –naming Paul Hubert, Judy Bryant, Matt Brown and Nancy Branscombe– but said others come to meetings unprepared and don’t read the reports before they get to the council floor.

Mayor Joe Fontana began Tuesday afternoon’s committee meeting by saying he woke up in a good mood, until news of Baechler’s comments upset him. Fontana told the committee, of which Baechler is not a member, that he thought the comments were disrespectful and violated council’s code of conduct.

Councillor Harold Usher accused Baechler of defaming his character by not listing him as one of the councillors who does a good job and comes to meetings prepared. He demanded a public apology from Baechler.

Baechler later came to City Hall to defend herself, but was cut off when Councillors Joe Swan, Harold Usher and Bud Polhill walked out of the meeting. With only two members of the committee still present the meeting abruptly came to an end without quorum.

After the meeting, Baechler told reporters she just wanted her chance to speak.

Baechler says it’s her point-of-view that there are many members of council that work hard and deserve a raise, but there are others that don’t. She says just because she only named four councillors she thinks are working hard, doesn’t mean other council members aren’t.

Mayor Fontana, who didn’t want to let Baechler join in on the committee’s conversation, says it’s something that will have to come up at city council on April 1.

Fontana says as the head of council he has an obligation to bring it up when someone says something disrespectful about another council member. He says Baechler came in at the last minute and he was under pressure to finish the meeting in time for another committee meeting that needed the space.

During the meeting, the committee voted 3-2 in favour of approving the 1% pay increase for councillors and the mayor. The final vote goes to council April 1.

Listen to audio of Baechler’s exchange with Fontana and the Corporate Services Committee:¬†