Skip to content

Report slams township reeve on St. Joseph Island for ‘belligerent’ behaviour

Former integrity commissioner also found council violated code of conduct by refusing to answer questions about hiring, including appointment of reeve's brother as a clerk
Tractor Flower Bed
A sign promoting the annual Harvest Festival in Jocelyn Township.

The former integrity commissioner for a township on St. Joseph Island has made a number of recommendations after finding that both the reeve and council violated Ontario's Municipal Act and the township’s code of conduct.  

An investigation was launched last year following a number of allegations made by a member of the public surrounding the behaviour of Jocelyn Township Reeve Mark Henderson towards the public during council meetings and the skirting of the township’s own hiring policies. 

In a 12-page report issued last month, former integrity commissioner Antoniette Blunt concluded that Henderson violated Jocelyn Township’s code of conduct by treating members of the public “disrespectfully and without courtesy” during a pair of council meetings held during the summer of last year — shortly after a pair of councillors quit amid ongoing political turmoil. The clerk treasurer resigned and the deputy clerk took leave prior to the resignations.   

The final report noted that witnesses to the council meetings who were interviewed by Blunt consistently described Henderson as being rude, "belligerent, dismissive" and demonstrating a “lack of respect.” Henderson, in turn, told Blunt that while he never raised his voice in council, others in attendance did so.   

Even though there is no specific section of the township’s code of conduct that deals with the conduct of council members, the integrity commissioner concluded “the purpose and underlying principles of the code of conduct confirm that elected representatives should operate from a base of integrity and courtesy.” 

The integrity commissioner determined the code of conduct was violated again when Henderson and members of council refused to respond to questions about the township’s hiring practices posed by delegates and members of the public during a council meeting held July 21, 2023. 

A number of violations concerning the township’s hiring policies were included in the report, most of them surrounding the appointment of township clerks — including Clive Henderson, the reeve’s brother — on a volunteer basis, despite the roles previously being paid positions prior to the appointments. 

The hiring policies were addressed by council during the same July 2023 council meeting, which was attended by a representative for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing after the ministry had fielded complaints around the filling of council and staff vacancies.      

Blunt found that council violated Section 224 of Ontario's Municipal Act by failing to develop policies around volunteers working in roles normally held by paid staff, and failing to revise employment policies “that should be applicable to volunteers,” such as criminal record checks and training related to the prevention of workplace injuries and incidents. 

It was also determined that Henderson didn’t violate the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act in the appointment of his brother as deputy clerk because there was no pecuniary conflict due to the fact that neither Henderson nor his brother are being paid for their positions. 

But the integrity commissioner at the time did find that Henderson violated the township’s code of conduct. “As a reasonably well-informed person, Reeve Henderson ought to have known that he had a personal, non-pecuniary conflict of interest regarding the appointment of his brother Clive Henderson to the position of deputy clerk treasurer,” Blunt said in the report.  

It was also determined that council violated the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act by having no appointed privacy officer, policy or program in place. “The legislation requires personal information to be collected, retained, used and disclosed in a manner that prevents privacy breaches,” said the report.  

The former integrity commissioner has made a number of recommendations to council in light of the findings, including the issuing of a motion in council reprimanding Henderson for violating the code of conduct and formalizing a request that the reeve apologize to the public at a council meeting, while providing a written apology on the township’s website.  

Other recommendations include the appointment of clerk or deputy clerk as privacy officer, and revisions to the township’s current code of conduct. 

It’s also recommended that the hiring policy include a section regarding conflict of interest where immediate family members are involved, in addition to a section that addresses volunteers functioning in staff roles. The former integrity commissioner also found that policies and procedures need to be in place specifically for volunteers working in positions previously held by paid employees. 

Blunt's contracted position as integrity commissioner for Jocelyn Township ended this past December.  

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