Skip to content

Province keeping close eye on political turmoil in Jocelyn Township

Jocelyn Ratepayers for Accountable Government accuses reeve of 'unilaterally' withdrawing appointment to council; he insists that is not true
The annual Harvest Festival in Jocelyn Township is short volunteers after the township's recreation committee pulled out of the event amid ongoing political turmoil. The Jocelyn Ratepayers for Accountable Government is accusing township reeve Mark Henderson of 'unilaterally'withdrawing the appointment of the deputy clerk's wife to council.

A grassroots group of concerned citizens on St. Joseph Island is crying foul after its municipality filled vacant councillor positions last month — moves that had to be made following the abrupt departure of two councillors this summer over the alleged behaviour of reeve and council.    

The Jocelyn Ratepayers for Accountable Government (JRAG) was formed in the weeks following the departures of Jocelyn Township councillors Faye Stevens and Janet Callahan, both of whom stepped down from their positions simultaneously during a special council meeting over their issues with the current leadership.      

“I have found it to be a top-down local government with all action driven by the reeve. Practically every council meeting was a struggle, rather than an exercise in informed co-operative decision making,” Stevens said in her resignation letter, which she read aloud in council chambers during the June 29 meeting. “It never seemed to matter if proper procedures of municipal law were followed when it came to roads, taxes, budgets, or anything else. There were always workarounds proposed for those deemed to be relatives, friends or voting supporters.”

But the departures from roles within the small, rural township didn’t stop there.    

Clerk treasurer Janet Boucher quit her job in June after more than three decades serving in that role. Longtime deputy clerk Myra Eddy also took leave from her job during that time.  

The recreation committee in Jocelyn Township would later vote to cease its involvement with the annual Harvest Festival, which it had traditionally organized for a number of years, due to the ongoing political unrest.  

The clerk roles, which are pro bono positions in the township office, have since been filled.     

But JRAG has taken issue with last month’s appointments of Jason Kennedy and Nelson Soares to Jocelyn Township council; the ratepayers group claims that the appointment of a runner-up in last year’s municipal election, Scott Eddy, was withdrawn “unilaterally” by the reeve over an undefined conflict of interest.    

In a July 20 letter to council, JRAG said that according to council resolution 23-118, Jocelyn Township resolved to offer seats to those who had participated in campaigning for council in last year’s municipal election, which included Eddy. 

The letter from JRAG also asserted that leadership had “enthusiastic support to move to a democratic election to fill the vacant seats" but “that was also quickly bypassed.”

JRAG has demanded that reeve and council appoint Eddy — or hold an election so people living in Jocelyn Township can elect its council members.     

“Moving quickly to personally hand pick replacements other than inviting the people who campaigned for the job, or moving to elect councillors is not what transparency in government looks like,” said the letter to the reeve and council from the ratepayers group, which was read by JRAG member Melanie Dorscht during the township’s July 21 council meeting. 

Dorscht has declined to speak with SooToday.   

Jocelyn Township Reeve Mark Henderson told SooToday Wednesday that council asked him to get in touch with the other two people who ran in the last municipal election — Heather Coleman and Scott Eddy — to see if they would be interested in letting their names stand to be on council. 

“Council has to appoint them, that is the process,” Henderson said.

Coleman turned down the appointment. But when it came time to give the same offer to Eddy, Henderson says, one of the council members made him aware of the would-be councillor’s efforts in breaking quorum — a move which could potentially trigger another election.  

“Scott Eddy had asked Coun. Gilbertson to resign, so that he could bring council down — the whole of council down, and Coun. Gilbertson refused to do so,” said Henderson. “That’s what I’m being told, so it’s all hearsay — you’d have to check it out to make sure it’s true, but I believe Mr. Gilbertson. There’s no reason for me not to.” 

Eddy declined to an opportunity to comment on the matter when contacted by SooToday

Leadership would ultimately decide against Eddy’s appointment during the next council meeting, aided by a recommendation from the township reeve — a right Henderson says he possesses under Section 225 of the Municipal Act — due to the fact that Eddy is the spouse of Myra Eddy, who is still very much a deputy clerk for Jocelyn Township.  

“I don’t know how anyone could swear an oath to unbiasedly supervise their wife,” said Henderson. “I would find that hard to believe. 

“I can’t recommend him for that job, and that’s all I said at the meeting. I couldn’t recommend him. That’s not unilaterally saying he can’t be on [council], because I don’t have that power — I’m just one vote.”

A representative from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, meanwhile, was in attendance at the July 21 council meeting in order to watch the small-town political theatre in Jocelyn Township unfold. 

In an email to SooToday, ministry spokesperson Melissa Diakoumeas confirmed municipal affairs representatives will be attending public council meetings going foward “as observers and will provide guidance to the municipality as required.” 

“The ministry is aware of challenges related to the filling of council and staff vacancies and is monitoring the situation,” said Diakoumeas. “As with all our municipal partners, the province works with local governments to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the Municipal Act.”

Henderson has characterized JRAG's beef with council as political in nature — the result of some fallout over last year's municipal election.

“I’m pretty sure that we’re doing everything above board and legally. Is it [what] the side that ran against me last election wants to see happen? No, of course not. They have a different view than I have, and they’re entitled to have that — and I defend their right to have that,” said the reeve. “But because I’m not doing what they want to do doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, or doesn’t mean that I’m doing things that are un-transparent.

"What have I done that’s un-transparent?”

The next council meeting is scheduled for August 8.

What's next?

If you would like to apply to become a Verified reader Verified Commenter, please fill out this form.


James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
Read more