Mayor defends his right to speak against council

Free to express his opinion even if his beliefs go against what council as a whole has approved or disapproved

The mayor is firing back at councillors who have called him out for criticizing council decisions after council meetings.

Mayor Walter Jakeway said that at a recent mayors’ caucus one speaker, Bill Buholzer, a lawyer with extensive knowledge of the Community Charter, told Jakeway that, even as mayor, he is free to express his opinion even if his beliefs go against what council as a whole has approved or disapproved.

Jakeway said he told Buholzer that several members of council believe that once council votes, the mayor can only speak in support of that particular topic. Jakeway said the lawyer denied that.

“He was very quick in saying ‘no, that’s not correct. So long as the mayor lets the public know that what he’s saying is not necessarily what council voted, and as long as the mayor will implement whatever decision the council has made, the mayor has free speech,” Jakeway said. “And the way he explained it was that ‘before you became mayor, did you have free speech?’ And of course the answer is yes. No legislation can take that away from you, you still have free speech.”

Jakeway said he further reasoned that a mayor is responsible for representing the people who voted for him or her and those people are likely to share the mayor’s views.

Jakeway, however, has taken heat from some councillors who have accused him of not abiding by the rules of the Community Charter.

The most recent case occurred at a council meeting on Aug. 27. At that meeting Coun. Andy Adams called out Jakeway for critical comments he made in the media regarding council’s decision to use the Alternate Approval Process to get voters’ permission to borrow millions of dollars for sewer and water infrastructure improvements.

“The other part of the Community Charter, under the responsibilities of the mayor, where it says the mayor is to reflect the will of council, do you also believe that’s undemocratic?” Adams asked Jakeway at the August meeting.

Jakeway replied ‘no’ and said he was expressing his opinion.

Prior to that case, after budget planning in 2012 Coun. Claire Moglove said she was disappointed Jakeway urged the public to stage a tax revolt after council approved a 13 per cent residential tax increase. Moglove maintained that under the Community Charter, it is the mayor’s duty and responsibility to speak in support of council’s majority decision.

Following that incident, Jakeway was taken to task by Coun. Mary Storry for comments Jakeway made at a Rotary luncheon about city staff and the 2012 budget deliberations. Jakeway said city staff played “a game of divide and conquer (that) council fell for” during budget planning. Storry in response said council would “review and discuss the mayor’s role as council spokesperson and whether (the) comments accurately or appropriately reflect the will and view of council.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Storry, who seemed dubious, was the only councillor to respond to Jakeway’s report.

“Just so I’m clear, as long as you are reflecting the will of council in saying that you are going to support whatever council has decided, apart from that, he insinuated you could say whatever you want, whenever you want?” Storry asked.

Jakeway replied that as long as the public is aware his comments are not indicative of how council voted, he can say what he wants because no piece of legislation can take away free speech.

“Interesting, thanks,” replied Storry.