West Grey suspends councillor following court appearance

A councillor in West Grey has been suspended without pay following an integrity commissioner's report into a court appearance by the councillor earlier this year.

West Grey Council received that report during its regular meeting on Tuesday morning, where councillor Rebecca Hergert was reprimanded following a complaint filed by the Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission alleging Hergert had appeared as a defence witness at a Provincial Offences Court case, and breached West Grey's Code of Conduct.

The complaint appears to stem from an incident in August of 2019 when a pilot using the airport was charged with trespassing.

Earlier this year, it's alleged Hergert appeared (as a former Saugeen Municipal Airport Commissioner, as well as a councillor for West Grey) at the trial as a witness for the defense at the request of the pilot's legal counsel, and apparently did not seek legal council from the Municipality's own legal advisors.

The integrity report centres around a Code of Conduct adopted by West Grey in September 2020, which states "No member shall use the influence of his or her office for any purpose other than for the exercise of his/her official duties".

A portion of the report's Analysis section says "Sharing information garnered by virtue of her position on the Commission in order to undermine the interests of the Airport would be wholly inappropriate if she were still a Commissioner", and that "Her actions in this regard were found to be undermining to the Commission and its efforts to ensure safe and orderly operations at the Airport".

The report recommended that Councillor Hergert be suspended without pay "for 5-10 days", at which time the rest of council began discussions, ultimately settling for a five day reprimand via recorded vote.

Furthermore, Councillor Beth Hamilton moved a recommendation that "council, the whole body, receive training by the integrity commissioner, or by an expert recommended by the commissioner, on navigating council and board relationships, including legal, political and ethical considerations". This vote passed unanimously.

Mayor Christine Robinson and Councillor Hergert have yet to respond to requests for comment on this story, or the findings of the report.

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