Council votes unanimously to penalize Councillor Stolte five days pay for breaching the Code of Conduct

By Pepper Parr

April 20th, 2022



After three and a half hours of debate, Burlington city council voted last night to accept the recommendation set out in the Integrity Commissioners report that said ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had breached the Council Code of Conduct on two occasions.

The penalty was to not pay Stolte for five work days.

Integrity Commissioner Jeffrey Abrams

Jeffrey xxx, the Commissioner who did all the talking related to the report, said  had he been aware that Stolte had written an Opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator he would have recommended a 30 day without pay penalty.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

He said that in arriving at what the penalty should be he had taken into account that he felt Stolte was contrite. When he learned that Stolte had written the Opinion piece (the same opinion piece appeared in the Gazette five days earlier) he said he would have recommended a 30 day period of time without pay.

The decision by Council to accept the recommendation was unanimous.

In closing the meeting Mayor Marianne Meed Ward began the process of trying to heal the differences and urged her colleagues to look at how much they had achieved this term of office.

The meeting was a hybrid event that had Councillors Nisan and Galbraith taking part from their homes while the rest of Council was in chambers.  The complaint to the Integrity was filed by Nisan and Galbraith.

City Manager took part in the meeting and commented on several occasions.
The Gazette reported last night that Councillor Stolte had said she had begun to realize she “was not cut out for this kind of work” and said she would not be running for office in October.

Stolte set out the numerous occasions when she said she had tried to have her council members look for ways to ensure that the public had more information on just what takes place in a Closed sessions of Council.

Of the two breaches that the Integrity Commissioner identified the Bateman High school property purchase was the one that drew the most attention and concern.
Councillor Stolte told her colleagues that she was not going to apologize for what she had done.

A separate report from the Closed Session Investigator is due early in May. It will report on the review it has done of the Closed Session practices of the administration.

Councillor Galbraith made a strong point when he said Staff bring a recommendation to go into a Closed Session of Council but it is Council who make the decision to do so.

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15 comments to Council votes unanimously to penalize Councillor Stolte five days pay for breaching the Code of Conduct

  • Mozelle Cole

    It is for this reason good people resign. I trust the two who started this are pleased at the outcome. This type of issue should have been handled by the mayor and city manager. Has the mayor forgotten her days as a councillor. These types of bullying tactics need to stop. Here’s an idea – rather than the councillors spending all this money on outside help, why don’t we just stone her in the square. Councillor Stolte, hear this: YOU ARE EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED IN OFFICE. Did you sign anything to the effect that you could not “talk”? If not, you shouldn’t have been put through this disgrace. Thank you for “transparency “. Please reconsider.

    • Bruce

      Moselle Cole

      Rules, regulations, codes of conduct are set for a reason. The reason is that everyone knows what is expected of them and the boundaries they must stay within. The rules, regulations and code of conduct apply equally to all councilors and the mayor.

      You can bet your bottom dollar had the Mayor broken a rule, a regulation, a code of conduct and say Councilors Nisan and Galbraith tried to get Council to deal with it “off the books” so to speak and the matter become public knowledge, the likes of the Gazette, Hersh & Marsden would likely scream blue murder calling it a cover up.

      Councilors Nisan and Galbraith abided by the rules. Councillor Stolte did not.

      Editor’s note: Bruce seems to, once again, misunderstood what the rule breaking was all about. No one disputes that the rules were broken. Was has many concerned is the fractionalization within city council. The record clearly shows that Stolte did her darndest to work with the Councillors to get more information getting out to the public. Bruce seems to have gotten hung up on the rules: Stolte knows what they are and was prepared to pay the price when they were broken.

      The support for her in her ward far exceeds the support for Nisan and Galbraith in their wards.

  • Fred Crockett

    This entire procedure was expensive, time wasting, and insipid bureaucratic nonsense, and is another example of why the general population ignores municipal politics.

  • Helen Donohoe

    This is all very unfortunate and unsettling. It seems that there is just a bit of sexism here. Some naïveté perhaps on the part of Cllr Stolte, in her zeal to improve what she saw as an undesirable situation – but where were her council colleagues? Did none of them foresee the possibility of some missteps and alert Cllr Stolte to them? I wonder if the two female councillors, Kearns and Stolte would have “ganged up” on a male councillor colleague in a similar fashion? I think the mayor too, slipped up on this one, by not anticipating what has turned out to be a real débâcle.

  • Joe Gaetan

    “Trying to heal the differences” what differences? The difference between transparency and secrecy? Something is not right here, and I am not sure this is the end point.
    Having read the judgement, I am of the opinion that the report is deserving of a comprehensive case commentary. Following are a few examples as to why. On line [23) Stolte admits she “may have run afoul”,
    [23] She has conceded, during the course of this investigation, that in attempting to highlight the issue, and in an effort to force a discussion on the issue, she may have run afoul of the ‘confidentiality’ provisions of the Code”.
    However, the report at line [79] prepared by the adjudicator states Stolte, “recognzed that she ran afoul”, big difference.
    [79] As noted, the Councillor has recognized that she ran afoul of the ‘confidentiality’ provisions of the Code in attempting to highlight and force discussion on the issue.
    And then there is the matter of the statement at line [7] “The Councillor must have disclosed the presence of asbestos in the school, a fact which had only been discussed in closed session, as evidenced by comments made on social media by a family relation who could only have learned of it from the Councillor, as all discussion of the presence of asbestos in the building had been confidential;”
    From an evidentiary perspective, the above statement is not a fact, it is an opinion proffered by one or both of the proponents and as such its admissibility is questionable. An “opinion” is a conclusion as to the truth of a fact proposition, made by someone other than the adjudicator. Per the Administrative Law (Ontario)(SPPA) Guide. The ultimate opinion in a case is that of the adjudicator, who in their ruling is saying that they are of the opinion that the plaintiff has proven/not proven their case, and the fact opinions that support this conclusion. At line [53] the adjudicator did “find that the Councillor was not the source of the information referenced on social media about the asbestos contamination at the Bateman High School.”
    Perhaps the “opinion” should have been publicly stated as having no-weight. The exclusion of “prejudicial evidence” is a matter for the adjudicator to decide and they may need to hear, or in this case, read the evidence, to determine whether it is prejudicial, and if they find that it is they can openly state that they are not going to give it any weight (ie. effectively ignore it). Given an adjudicator can’t delete the “opinion” from the minds of the public, expecting the public to ignore or forget the “opinion” is wishful thinking. The adjudicator by ruling on the “opinion” gave it weight.
    The general rules of evidence used by courts and hopefully adjudicators to determine the admissibility of evidence, is composed of a combination of common law principles, statutory provisions, and constitutional principles, and requires the evidence presented to be relevant, reliable, necessary, and fair.
    Stating “The Councillor must have disclosed the presence of asbestos in the school” while possibly “relevant”, failed 3 of the 4 tests, of being “reliable”, “necessary” and “fair”.

  • Bruce Leigh

    Mr Craig Gardiner

    A separate independent investigation is being undertaken by the Provincially appointed investigator into all aspects of each and every closed door session held by this council and to its adherence to the Provincially set rules and regulations governing closed door sessions. The Provincial Investigator is a different body to the Integrity Commissioner. Both have very focused but different briefs.

    Ms Hersh

    As has been pointed out by another reader, Councilor Stolte had every opportunity to express her frustrations and concerns and to seek change by utilizing the prescribed avenue available to her; namely make a referral to the Provincial Investigator. At no time did she attempt that route.

    The integrity Commissioner had understood via his interaction with Council Stolte that she was contrite (remorseful) for having broken the confidentiality rules. However, it seems Councilor Stolte was anything but remorseful or contrite, when one reads her words published in both the Spectator and the Gazette. And that is the take the Integrity Commissioner took from her words to those two publications.

    Maybe her attitude of not being contrite or remorseful invited her colleagues to be harder on her than they might otherwise have been. I’m sure that a number of her colleagues hold the same views as she does, but are upset at her actions whuch basically say “screw the rules”.

    Stolte is not a victim.

    Stolte is not a whistle-blower.

    Stolte is a councilor who has noble aims and goals but has made a mistake in trying to move towards those aims and goals by breaking the rules.

    The end never ever justifies the means.

    • Jim Thomson

      Bruce, there is no Provincial Investigator. The Closed Meeting Investigator is retained by the City just like the integrity commissioner. I also think council requested a review of their procedures not an investigation into all aspects of each and every closed session. Council wanted a reoprt by early May. There have been way too many closed door sessions to investigate them all in the short time requested.

      • Bruce Leigh

        Thanks Jim for the correction. It made me do more digging.

        Here is a link to the Ontario Ombudsman’s page regarding closed meetings.

        Excerpt from that site:-

        “In this directory, “LAS” refers to the investigator service provided by the Local Authority Services branch of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Contact the relevant municipality for contact information for other investigators.

        Please note that although the Ombudsman is not the designated closed meeting investigator for all municipalities, our Office does take general complaints about all Ontario municipalities, except for the City of Toronto, which has its own Ombudsman.”

        Here is a link to LAS the investigator appointed by the City of Burlington. LAS itself has delegated its authority to the firm Amberley Gavel. (

  • Janice Jones

    Discusting! Councillor Stolte was trying to be transparent with the tax payers that employ these city workers. She should be commended, not punished. Too many meetings are being help behind closed doors. What are the mayor and the councillors trying to hide? It’s extremely disappointing that Stolte won’t be seeking re-election, but I totally understand after her own people threw her under the bus. She’s one of the hardest working councillors trying to improve the “goings on” at city hall. BTW, I am not in her ward.


    WOW!!! What happened to freedom of speech???
    I am unsettled that the vote was unamimous:( Councillor Stolte did nothing wrong in wanting to keep the citizens informed. Sorry that she is not running again. It means will again be kept in the dark about ongoings in our city. Bravo Councillor Stolte!! I am not a resident of Ward 4!!!

    • Bruce Leigh

      OMG. She did do something wrong ! She broke the rules that as a councilor she agreed to abide by. Don’t you get that? Her goals of greater transparency and more knowledge in the publuc domain are laudable. But she broke the rules. What’s more she is not remorseful for having done so.

      She had other avenues available to her within the rules, but chose to go rogue!

      Imagine a parent getting caught doing 80kph in a 40kph on your street, possibly endangering you and your family. The parent justifies their action to the police officer saying they had to speed to get to their child’s recital on time. Understandable reason, but not an excuse. The paren broke the rules and must accept the punishment for doing so. Would you be ok with the driver speeding like that on your street and being let off? I think not.

      Do you get it now?

  • Eve St Clair

    In other words ,go against Liberal Mayor and suffer consequences . Kudos to Councillor Stolte for telling the truth She will be missed

  • steven craig gardner

    Why does the integrity commissioner or some neutral body review the use of closed sessions and if found to be used inappropriatelt penalize council and admin that suggested. It seems more than in past terms this is being used. Only thought is what are they hiding from their bosses the taxpayer. Perhaps like 4 years ago time for a whole new slate of councillors some that want to let us know what they are up to and not hiding behind closed sessiosns all the time.

    • Jim Thomson

      The person you are looking for is the Closed Meeting Investigator. All Councillor Stolte had to do was make a complaint to get a review. Any member of the public could also have made a complaint but up till the Feb 15 council meeting no complaints had been filed. At the Feb 15 meeting both Councilllor Stolte and Mayor Meed Ward indicated that they were filing complaints.

      Mayor Meed Ward indicated that she expects the results of her complaint early in May.
      At the Council meeting on February 15 council unanimously requested a review of their closed session procedures from the Closed Meeting Investigator. That report was requested for the early May meeting of the CSSRA. I think the city manager indicated that the report will actually not arrive until June during the meeting last night.

      As to why there are more closed sessions. The development freeze and the new city plan have resulted in more litigation.

  • Penny Hersh

    Councillor Stolte sat through 3 hours of “public shaming”. It was very difficult to watch.

    According to the Integrity Commission’s Report there were 2 issues that they felt had been in breach of the confidentially oath. This was to be discussed and voted on.

    What transpired seemed to be an opportunity for some to be “payback” for going public.

    CONTRITE….this word was bandied around many times. What does this actually mean? Councillor Stolte because she chose to make the public aware of issues was not CONTRITE ENOUGH. It became apparent to those watching the meeting that some wanted more sanctions imposed. So much for this complaint not being about punishment but a learning experience.

    I felt that Councillor Kearns was the only member of council who chose to try to express her frustrations as well. Councillor Kearns did her due diligence in voting to accept the Integrity Commissioners Report, but did it in a way that did not demean her fellow councillor and as a result had to endure some criticism as well.

    I don’t question Councillor Stolte’s decision NOT to run for Council again. My question would be why WOULD she? Things move very slowly or not at all at City Hall. If all the faces sitting on council today are the same after the municipal election how many changes would actually take place.

    I was very impressed with Councillor Stolte’s professional approach to last evenings meeting. It takes a lot of strength and conviction to have to listen to the “discussion” that took place and still be able to try to explain her reasoning.

    I look forward to seeing the report on the investigation of how the city/council presently deals with closed sessions. It will also be interesting to see how this report is “discussed’ at council.