I thought it was funny - the City Manager at the time didn't see it that way.

background graphic redBy Pepper Parr

October 30th, 2020



It was three years ago.

I was communicating with the then Director of Planning and making sure that she was kept in the loop on those occasions when I was following up on development projects with staff.

I chose to send an email to Mary Lou Tanner which was deemed to be offensive – for which the then city manager, James Ridge, chose to ban me from being in city hall.

I sued.

I am apparently allowed to attend events at city hall.

I am still publishing the Gazette.

Marianne Meed Ward and her council fired James Ridge, the city manager that banned me, the day after they were sworn in.

The current city manager revised the organizational structure and there wasn’t a place for Mary Lou Tanner who had been elevated to Deputy City Manager.

The content of the email, which may have been inappropriate, is set out below.

MLT email screen shot

On Halloween Eve I sent the then Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner an email responding to her note that she was out of the office and would return in a few days. i responded in what I thought was jest-fully, amusing. The then city manager didn’t see it that way.

MaryLou Tanner Cogeco 2018 direct

Mary Lou Tanner Her job as Deputy Mayor was taken off the org chart. Left with a hefty settlement

Ridge 4

James Ridge, city manager. Became the first decision of a new city council. They fired him.


I thought it was funny.

James Ridge did not share my view and sent me a letter, a portion of which is set out below:

“…a number of restrictions were imposed on your access to city hall and city hall staff under the Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1991, c. T.21.

“Despite the actions taken by the City, those actions appear to have been ineffective in preventing your further harassment of female staff. On the 30th of October this year, I was contacted by the Director of Planning and Building, Ms. Tanner, who provided me with a copy of an e-mail that you had sent to her that was both offensive and misogynistic in nature.

Ms. Tanner was very disturbed by your action in this regard. The City simply cannot and will not permit you to continue to harass our staff and in particular our female staff.

As a direct result of your actions, I have decided that the restrictions placed on your access to City Hall functions and contact with staff pursuant to the Trespass to Property Act as set out in my September 8, 2016 correspondence will continue indefinitely…”

You decide.

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11 comments to I thought it was funny – the City Manager at the time didn’t see it that way.

  • Terence

    I have concerns about the current Burlington ‘City Hall’ (BCH) approach since, in my view, most of the major ‘democratic’ decisions seem to be predetermined and possibly politically motivated and we, the public, get the WHAMMO when its too late.

    (On an aside, it should be interesting to see what happens to the potential burying of the power cables on the beach strip and the (possibly back room) role that the developers will play in this decision!)

    Anyway, the facts of the Pepper / Ms. Tanner ‘witch and broom’ incident, as presented in the article above does, in my opinion, fall into category of trivia and, as such, stinks of a personal vendetta and a deluded City Manager.

    Unless there is a deeper content than that presented above it is difficult to see how this email ever got down the line of command resulting in Pepper being excluded from the BCH meetings for over a year.

    This exclusion seems totally inappropriate and possibly demonstrates the disproportionate influence of the small-minded cliques and their collective influence in the BCH decisions at that time!

    The only rational conclusion I can come up with is that there was a desire to stop Pepper’s criticism or to punish him for previous criticisms and this email provided the excuse!

    The Burlington Gazette is one of the very few publications that addresses the REAL issues and ACTIVELY encourages other readers points of view – try that with the Post!

  • D W

    Even if it wasn’t funny, it looks like a big over reaction. And now in hindsight appears to have been a tool resorted to when convenient. Seems an abuse of power to me.

    • Check out our pinned tweet @LetVotersSpeak posted on November 1, 2020 at a time we were totally unaware of this discussion (caught up with it today). Our exclusion from Burlington City Hall and their other properties reputedly (but did not) follow an outside investigation of similar charges as to those lobbied against the Gazette editor, but no e-mails claimed to be offensive. Our letter of trespass immediatelly followed a draft audit on the 2014 municipal election presented to the December 2016 Audit Committee. The webcast (but not the minutes) shows we were invited to present the full audit to the February 2, 2017 Audit Committee instead we were excluded from all city hall meetings including the statutory public meeting of 2018 that approved the UGC that directly affected us in terms of property we own and still does. Our audits have been accepted by local, national and international organizations as education tools to improve the organizations compliance with legislation and educate as to what is occurring that should not. Hamilton openly invites such information and the process has saved taxpayers a ton of money. Not so Burlington or Halton….. but change may well be on the way, as it should be……

  • Penny Hersh


    Mr. Ridge could have sent an email asking ECoB to remove the statement. ECoB did remove it, even though it was a direct quote from the legal responsibilities that all planners sign. He did not have to send an email threatening legal action.

    ECoB did nothing wrong, unfortunately Mr. Ridge’s first response was always to send a threatening email.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Well guess what, the field is now level, no one is getting into city hall. Time to move on.

  • What Mr. Ridge objected to with respect to ECOB was an unfounded comment about the planning staff not upholding their professional obligations, as I recall. A good boss in any organization stands up for the reputation of his/her team.

    As for Mr. Parr’s e-mail, context in these kinds of situations is important. What was the relationship prior? Did he joke around with Ms Tanner a lot? If so, the e-mail would not seem to be out of line. If they didn’t have that kind of relationship, yes it would seem creepy, and based on Mr. Ridge’s response, other female staff members had received the same vibe. Especially in today’s environment, it is certainly not professional. Whether that’s enough to constitute harassment: I don’t think so, but it’s the recipient of the action who determines how they felt about it.

    Hopefully this is all in the past and City staff and citizens can treat one another with the respect they deserve going forward.

  • Rob n

    For a guy with a military background Mr. Ridge has thin skin and zero perspective. And Ms. Tanner, really? These are among the highest levels In our City government and the address issues by blackballing the media.

    What an asinine thing to do. Banning a resident from their own City Hall.

    Talk about suppression of the media. You’re often the only unbiased, thoughtful reporter in the room.

    The Gazette is a great source of information.

    Keep up the great work Pepper!

  • Penny Hersh

    This response was typical James Ridge.

    He did the same thing to the Board of Management at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre, which ultimately led to the City taking over the management of the Centre. Interestingly enough they hired the chef that the Board of Management found. It was the Board of Management and it’s running of the Bistro that made it the success it is, NOT the City. We upgraded the kitchen and made it into a commercial kitchen, unlike any other in any of the City facilities.

    Mr Ridge tried the same thing with ECoB, but this time we stood up for our rights and published his letter which threatened legal action because he didn’t like something that was on our website.

    What does it say about a city that threatens its residents and volunteers?

  • Don Fletcher

    The take away for you, Pepper, is obviously to be able to distinguish the “flying” type of broom from the one used for “sweeping” (often in re-organizations). The devil is always in the details!

  • David Barker

    In today’s uber politically correct world, yes that qualifies as offensive.

    But to my view it is funny and is the sort of sarcastic joke/comment that should be laughed off or simply ignored by the recipient.

    It reminds me though of the Big Bang Theory halloween episode that coincidentally was re-aired yesterday where Howard dressed up as Sheldon and imitated his speaking and behavioral characteristics. Sheldon (and Amy) were hurt and upset by Howard’s imitation. Everybody laughed except Sheldon.

    So Sheldon and Amy dressed up and acted out as Howard and Bernadette. H & B were not happy. Everyone else laughed.

    It’s all a matter of perspective