EDITORS NOTE: In a previous version of this article Thorold News incorrectly reported that the integrity commissioner recommended Handley be removed from council. The commissioner recommended Handley be removed from any committee, and that he not be appointed member of chair of any committee. Thorold News apologizes for the mistake.
A report by the city's integrity commissioner is recommending that city councillor Jim Handley have his pay suspended for 8 months and not be appointed to any commitees during that time, stating that he breached a slew of workplace- and city policies, and created a 'hostile work environment' by sending combative emails and posting misleading information on social media.
The report also recommends that Handley make a 'formal public sincere apology" to council and city staff within a month, and undergo training in how to communicate appropriately and respectfully.
"It is our view that Council should be concerned with respect to the conduct and behavior of the Councillor and take steps to minimize the risk of it occurring again and of further harm, including reputational damage being inflicted upon the City and its staff," wrote the commissioner.
The report is the result of a total of 8 complaints that were brought forward to the commissioner over the summer revolving around the councillor and his conduct towards other councillors and staff.
Spanning over 30 pages, the report outlines how Handley's communications with staff and other council members several times have contained "criticism, disrespect, questioning of competence and, in some instances, unmistakable bullying."
"We were not presented with any evidence, whether by the Councillor or otherwise, that the Councillor himself has ever received any such treatment from staff or from his fellow members of Council. He has provided no justification to defend his uncivil and, quite frankly, rude approach," the report states.
According to the report, Thorold's CAO was the subject of one of the alleged emails that were found in breach of the Workplace Policy.
The issue discussed was revolving around the Canada Summer Games, that Handley has been a vocal critic of.
"You have done nothing yourself. Just admit you did not send any info or memo yourself. (...) Thank God NN was listening in last night. At least he gave info. Not jibber jabber. He was more information and gave us info you have never divulged to council. To me you are a disappointment," Handley wrote to the CAO.
The report also investigated several posts that Handley had made in a local Facebook-group that he manages.
"The Councillor routinely makes statements that undermine Council as a whole and individual members of Council, the City and its staff, ranging from observation and criticism to undermining, derogatory, and disrespectful statements which cast doubt on the integrity of the City, staff and Council," the commissioner wrote, adding that Handley himself had acknowledged that he was in the wrong.
"We have noted that the Councillor himself has twice apologized for his transgressions, meaning that he was acutely aware that his actions were wrong and had caused harm to others and to the City," the report reads.
Earlier this summer, Handley announced he was taking a time-out from council to deal with 'legal issues' as well as his health.
He returned to his duties this October.
The report will be presented and discussed at Tuesday's council meeting, ultimately leaving it up to Handley's fellow council members on how to proceed.
Thorold News has reached out to Jim Handley for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
Mayor Terry Ugulini declined to comment on anything relating to Handley, and said the issue will be dealt with in council.