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Councillor Jim Handley without pay for eight months after investigation into emails, social media posts

"I ran for council to do something good for this city, and not to be embarrassed or criticized in public the way that I have," said a member of the council
Bob Liddycoat / Thorold News

Jim Handley will have his pay suspended for eight months, and is required to make a formal public apology, as well as undergo sensitivity training after city council decided to follow the recommendations in a report investigating complaints against the veteran councillor.

It was last week that a report from the commissioner established that Handley had broken several workplace- and council protocols and policies by sending combative emails to staff and vocally criticizing fellow councillors on social media, and that the behavior had continued despite Handley himself apologizing for his online conduct.

On Tuesday night, the report came before the council during the monthly meeting, where Handley was in attendance.

Representatives from the law firm Aird & Berlis, who was appointed as the city integrity commissioner, said that while Handley did respond to the complaints during the investigation, he had not responded to the final draft of the report before it went before council, or opted to make submissions before the meeting took place.

During the meeting, Handley was only permitted to speak to the recommendations of the report after not making any submissions prior to the meeting.

"I think eight months is severely harsh," said Handley.

"It's up to my fellow councillors to decide if I, after 17 years of service, am deserving of eight months of suspended pay."

Councillor John Kenney revealed during the meeting that he was one of the eight individuals who had launched complaints against Handley, and put forward a motion to follow the recommended penalties in the report.

"I feel like councillor Handley needs to understand that you can't berate people just because they have a different opinion," he said, adding that he had filed the complaint about posts Handley had made on Facebook that, alleged the councillor, involved his family.

He received support from councillors Victoria Wilson and Nella Dekker.

"I know what it is like to be criticized publicly. It is not only hurtful to me, but also for my family and friends. I ran for council to do something good for this city, and not to be embarrassed or criticized in public the way that I have. The findings need to be taken seriously," Nella Dekker said.

Councillor Ken Sentance said he 'did not relish' the outcome of the investigation into Handley's comments, but said staff and other members of the council needed to be protected.

"There were two apologies, and the behavior continued," said Sentance.

"There were multiple times to stop this behavior, and I wish it would have, but I see no other way than to support this motion."

Member Carmen DeRose said the eight months suspended pay was unduly harsh for Handley.

"This is a man who works harder and more hours than most of us," said DeRose, while pointing out that Handley could use the course in sensitivity training that he is now ordered to take.

Councillor Anthony Longo, who ultimately abstained his vote on the matter, was also critical against the decision to also take Handley off any committee engagements, calling it a disservice to the citizens of Thorold.

"Volunteer-wise, he does more than anybody else, and for eight months we will have to forego that," said Longo.

During the same meeting, a separate integrity commissioner complaint filed against councillor Victoria Wilson was thrown out after the investigation couldn't find any basis for the complaint.

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Ludvig Drevfjall

About the Author: Ludvig Drevfjall

Ludvig Drevfjall has been the editor of ThoroldToday since January 2020. He has worked as a journalist in Sweden, British Columbia and Ontario
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