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New Tecumseth councillor asked to apologize for social-media posts

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A New Tecumseth councillor has been asked to make a formal apology for her postings on social media.

In a rare move, council determined two motions were necessary to deal with Coun. Stephanie MacLellan’s “flippant and sarcastic” postings on Facebook and other local sites of public discussion.

“I’ve never gone through this in 25 years on council,” said Ward 4 Coun. Fran Sainsbury during the discourse of a secondary motion Monday night.

The motions were based on a complaint made Oct. 5, when MacLellan questioned the need for a special council meeting to discuss an interim control bylaw halting applications for new cannabis operators. Simcoe.com sought a response from MacLellan for this story, but calls were not returned by deadline.

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According to the code-of-conduct report written by integrity commissioner John Mascarin of Aird Berlis, “no notice or hearing is required prior to the passing of an interim control bylaw,“ under the Planning Act.

In her comments online, however, MacLellan questioned the need for a hastily called meeting if council was already scheduled to meet Oct. 19, and advised the public of her opinion on the cost of the meeting: “SPECIAL COUNCIL Meeting tomorrow Thursday Oct 1st at 5 pm. Apparently it’s a huge rush to slam through this Interim Control bylaw.”

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In another posted reply, MacLellan wrote, “In attendance should be if all councillors can make it 10 members of council @ $100 a pop and 8 staff members which includes our 4 highest paid… but hey it’s only your tax dollars right?” This was followed by a “face with rolling eyes” emoji.

The integrity report quotes the municipal code of conduct states “members shall observe and act with the highest standard of ethical conduct and integrity.” The report also reminds councillors to be cognizant they are “held to a higher standard of conduct than members of the public.”

What troubled Mayor Rick Milne was the disruption to the council as a whole.

“It split our council up,” Milne said Tuesday. “I think of our councillors as a family. Sure, we don’t always get along, have the odd spats — but not like this.”

The report asked for MacLellan to be censured — or admonished — but not to lose pay or be removed from any committees.

That motion passed 6-4, but a second motion was called for by Ward 7 Coun. Shira Harrison McIntyre after Ward 3 Coun. Paul Foster refused to add her request for an apology to his initial motion of censure.

“In the spirit of moving forward and healing from the past, we need to identify who the harm was done to and who perpetrated the damage,” said Harrison McIntyre.

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She asked council for a motion for an apology to cover the public areas where MacLellan’s comments were posted, such as Facebook, the Tottenham Community Soap Box, the Tottenham and New Tecumseth Community Group, Save the Beeton Woods members, council and the media.

The second motion carried with six members for and four against.

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