The mayor of a community just south of Winnipeg has resigned, amidst allegations of bullying on the local council.
The Rural Municipality (RM) of Ritchot is seeking advice on what to do after its mayor and two councillors quit. That means council only has two members, which is not enough to function.
In a letter sent to Global News, now former mayor Jackie Hunt calls her decision to leave “heartbreaking” but said, “when a council cannot function as a group, and when mediation does not work, and when name calling and belligerent behaviour become the norm, it is time to re-evaluate your spot at the table.”
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Hunt said she hopes her decision will start a conversation on how to better protect citizens who serve their communities. She does not get into specifics and is not giving interviews. You can read her full statement below:
“Our job as members of the RM of Ritchot Council was to work together for the betterment of the Municipality. To make decisions that were in the best interest of our residents today and for years to come.
I had the opportunity to work with some of the finest people. Not only staff, but community groups, planners, developers and elected officials from other municipalities and other levels of government. The decision to walk away was heartbreaking.
When a Council cannot function as a group, and when mediation does not work, and when name calling and belligerent behaviour become the norm, it is time to re-evaluate your spot at the table.
There is currently no mechanism in The Municipal Act that allows for elected officials to be disciplined for behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other work environment. There is a Council Code of Conduct, but it allows only for censuring, which is ultimately a public slap on the wrist.
I gave up my seat so that it might start a conversation at the Municipal and Provincial levels of government about how to better protect the residents that want to serve our communities. If I stayed and did nothing, then I became complicit and accepting of the behaviour. We are trying to encourage people to run for public office, and we need to ensure they are protected from bullying and inappropriate behaviour while serving their communities.
My hope is that the RM of Ritchot can find people to run for office who are community minded, want to work together towards common goals, and always, always look at the big picture when making decisions.
I always served my municipality with integrity and put its needs ahead of my own.
I would like to thank my colleagues Jeannot Robert and Ron Mamchuk, Mitch Duval and all of the staff at the Municipality for their dedication, integrity and support of the RM of Ritchot. It has been a pleasure serving with you.
I am now a private citizen and this will be my only statement on this matter. I plan to take time to regroup and focus on my family and charitable work.”
The other councillors to resign are Jeannot Robert and Ron Mamchuk.
In a statement, the province says it will be appointing an administrator to make decisions on behalf of the RM, until new councillors can be elected. A press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Eileen Clarke says by-elections will be held “as soon as practically possible.”
Ritchot is south of Winnipeg and made up of communities like Ste. Agathe, St Adolphe and Ile des Chenes.