An integrity report on Quinte West’s Mayor Jim Harrison has found his treatment of a member of council to be “insulting, indecent and abusive,” and is recommending he give a public apology for his behaviour.
The report states that on February 8, 2023, Harrison found an unnamed person outside Trenton’s municipal buildings speaking to an acquaintance after a council meeting. According to the report, when asked how he was, Harrison allegedly responded:
“Thing[s] were good until about 10 minutes ago” and then used profanity directed at the complainant. Specifically, it is alleged the Mayor stated “You are still an a—hole! You have always been an a—hole! Your neighbours…can’t stand you because they think you are an a—hole and that is why your wife has no friends because you are an a—hole.”
The report also states the mayor then called the individual after they returned home to apologize for his words; the apology was not accepted. The complaint against the mayor’s behaviour was then received by the integrity commissioner on April 11 and has been under investigation until today.
Though the investigation results state Harrision agreed his actions were inappropriate and found his apology phone call did in fact take place, the integrity commissioner found the mayor to be in breach of two codes of conduct: that every member of staff will treat members of the public, staff and each other respectfully; and they will “not use indecent, abusive, or insulting words or expressions toward any other member, any member of staff, or any member of the public.”
Along with the recommended public apology, the commissioner’s report suggests a 15-day suspension of Harrision’s remuneration to recognize the lack of tolerance of such behaviour from a government official.
During the Jan. 10 council meeting, after the presentation of the report, Harrison stated, “I’m prepared to do what the recommendations are. I am prepared to make an apology and pay the penalty in full. I have a written apology I can share tonight and I’m sure the director of finance will take care of the rest.”
Councillor Duncan Armstrong then declared that he was the complainant and did not need to hear his written apology saying, “I don’t want to put him through the fire. I would like to keep a unified front and I accept your apology.”
The two members of council then shook hands before setting the matter to rest. Some Quinte West citizens, however, shared the opinion that this was a waste of time and resources.
“We need a strong council. I’m proud of the way you handled this situation and your acceptance of the determination,” said Bob Porter, who joined the meeting online, “Please, work together for a better council. We need to be working to keep that budget under control and not spending money where we don’t need to.”
“Thank you for settling this quickly and honourably as you did,” said Glen Brown, “The amount of money we wasted, the time we’ve wasted, it’s unbelievable. This council has to start working together…Our councillors need to be held to a higher standard.”
“All that money could have been saved…instead of spending thousands of dollars over a squabble,” said one community member who didn’t share his name. “Get your ducks in a row, and if someone calls you a name, call a name back. You have better things to do.”