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'This is an abuse of power': Saint John councillors say suspensions due to support of striking city employees

Saint John city councillors Joanna Killen and Brent Harris say they’re facing “punishment” for their support of city hall employees on strike

Killen and Harris were relieved of “all their council committee duties and their appointments by council to different bodies,” in a council vote Tuesday night, pending the outcome of an investigation under the city’s code of conduct bylaw.

In an interview Wednesday, both Killen and Harris said they were told on Monday about a code of conduct complaint lodged against them, with 10 days given to respond to a third-party lawyer.

Both Killen and Harris said the council vote ending Tuesday night’s three-hour-and-forty-three minute meeting was sudden and unexpected.

“It came out of left-field,” said Killen. “To be delivered a punishment like that yesterday with no warning, or that that was possible for us… nobody communicated with us about this whatsoever.”

The city didn’t provide additional comment Wednesday, nor any details about the code-of-conduct complaint lodged. No public debate was held on the motion.

“Between the two of us, there’s 10,000 Saint Johners that have entrusted us to go and represent them, and we were not even allowed through process or opportunity to represent them,” said Harris.

Both Killen and Harris said they’ve felt some “heat” recently inside city hall for their support of striking CUPE Local 486 members, which included a visit to strike headquarters.

“This is an abuse of power,” said Stephen Drost, CUPE New Brunswick’s regional vice-president, in response to the suspensions. “It’s an attack on democracy, and it’s certainly an attack on labour in Saint John.”

Mayor Donna Reardon didn’t respond to an interview request on Wednesday. In a statement issued immediately after Tuesday’s meeting, Reardon said the vote was “in relation to the behaviour of two of its members and the risk posed to the local government as a result of their behaviour.”

Both Killen and Harris said they’ve consulted with their own legal counsel.

There’s been no timeline provided on how long the third-party investigation will take.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories


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