On June 16, 2020, a closed session council meeting resulted in the dismissal of three municipal employees, which was objected to by then-Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Daniel Gatien. The meeting has been the subject of several integrity commission investigations, during which it was found that the mayor approached three council members prior to the meeting to secure the votes required, while failing to inform the other council members of the additions to the agenda.
The latest report on the case by Integrity Commissioner Valerie M’Garry concluded that the council and mayor had violated the code of conduct. M’Garry recommended five sanctions to deal with the matter.
Three of the sanctions “died on the table” because no member of council proposed support for discussion and vote on any of them. Those sanctions included: requiring Assaly and the three councillors she approached to sign a letter of apology; have council seek professional coaching; and have Assaly reprimanded for violations of the code of conduct and Municipal Act died on the podium.
Council tabled for future discussion the sanction that recommended a better definition of the composition of the municipal management team and and also a two-thirds majority vote of council required for any decisions on hiring and terminations. The only sanction approved was the one to send M’Garry’s report to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.
During the October 25 council meeting current CAO Dominique Dussault presented a report of expenses relating to the case. According to the report, costs to the Town of Hawkesbury have reached $565,494.32, including legal and administrative fees.
The greatest expense came when Mayor Paula Assaly sought a judicial stay of one of the integrity commission reports. The defence attorney the town had to hire added $78,252.24 to the total expenses. All of the integrity commission investigation costs totalled $58,922.70, and labour relations resulted in another $3,360 in legal fees. All told, the costs associated with the events increased by $140,534.94 in October 2021.
There was little discussion or debate by council. The report was received and received without comment.