City council appears to be descending into turmoil with two city councillors filing code of conduct complaints against the mayor, the mayor and another city councillor filing a complaint of their own, and the remaining councillors trying to distance themselves from the mess.
Coun. Niels Konge, in a complaint co-signed by Coun. Steve Payne, alleges Mayor Mark Heyck overstepped his bounds by heading up an investigation into a complaint made against Konge by a city inspector two years ago and then taking the results to council.
In return, Heyck announced at a surprise news conference on Wednesday that he was firing back with a complaint of his own against Konge, co-signed by Coun. Shauna Morgan.
“I will not tolerate the abuse of city staff nor will I be intimidated by this councillor,” said Heyck. “Elected officials like to put on pink shirts once or twice a year and talk about bullying but the reality is that all too often and particularly in the political arena these kinds of things happen. So today I’m standing up to do what I believe is morally right and say I won’t accept it.”
Heyck did not elaborate on the complaint made by the city worker but Konge told Yellowknifer it all started in 2015 when he kicked the city inspector off of one of his job sites, in his role as president of Konge Construction.
“I did do that. And I had to do that. Because when you go onto a job site there are certain safety requirements that have to be met and when somebody shows up in running shoes, they’re not allowed on the job site,” said Konge.
“Did I yell at an inspector about some of the things he said I had to do? Absolutely I did. They weren’t based in code. Should I have yelled at him? No I shouldn’t have,” he said.
‘Independent third party’
At Heyck’s news conference, the mayor said he began an investigation with “an independent third party” who found many of the allegations valid, although Heyck declined to say who the third party investigator was.
On Jan. 23, 2017, Heyck presented council with the results of that investigation. Heyck said “only one councillor” thought the issue warranted further investigation by a conduct review committee, an as-and-when needed body appointed by councillors not involved in the process, and composed of various professionals and council members.
The mayor’s expressed recollection of events, however, isn’t sitting well with city councillors not involved in the complaints. All five — Couns. Rebecca Alty, Adrian Bell, Linda Bussey, Julian Morse and Rommel Silverio – issued a letter to media yesterday stating they weren’t balking at the city employee’s complaint but rather with the way the mayor had conducted the investigation.
According to their letter, “several councillors” raised concerns regarding the “legitimacy of the investigation,” which they concluded was not carried out under council’s ethical principles and rules of conduct policy.
Enter Konge’s complaint against the mayor.
“I’m not going to portray myself as some calm, perfect person in life– absolutely I’m not. But I quite firmly believe that how that initial complaint against me was handled was an abuse of power, was not handled as per the policy we have in place,” said Konge, describing the original investigation as a “kangaroo court.”
“(The mayor) decided that he was going to be the judge, jury, the executioner on that entire file … But I’m bullying him?”
Heyck has now filed a complaint, signed by Coun. Morgan, this time through council’s code of conduct policy.
The city did not provide details on what sort of punishments can be meted out under the policy but both Heyck and Konge said it could include public censure from council or restrictions on travel.
Morgan, admitting the situation “sounds like a soap opera,” said the mayor and herself are trying to “refocus” on the original complaint against Konge.
“I feel very strongly that as public leaders we have to be aware of the power we have and the privileges we have as leaders and be respectful both to staff and to the public and make sure that the power we hold doesn’t, can’t be used to intimidate or get advantage for ourselves,” she said.
Konge wants public apology
Konge believes it should never have gotten this far.
“Did it have anything to do with city business or me as a councillor? No it didn’t,” said Konge.
Konge said he will withdraw his complaint against the mayor if he issues a public apology and if city hall reimburses him approximately $8,000 in legal bills he spent defending himself against the initial complaint.
“I will do neither of these things,” said Heyck. “I’m more than happy to have a conduct review committee determine who was right, who was wrong in this situation.”
According to Heyck, the city’s code of conduct is “out of date and far too vague” and a process has begun to find a third party to update and strengthen it.
Coun. Steve Payne told Yellowknifer he believes Konge has a legitimate issue.
“I signed a letter because I feel that everybody who has an issue should have their voice heard,” said Payne. “ I have nothing against Mark as a mayor or as a person, this is not personal, this is just hoping for a proper procedure and policy to be followed.”
Heyck too stressed that the issue isn’t personal, and that he has no intention of stepping down or letting the issue otherwise influence council’s day-to-day operations.
“I’m not easily intimidated,” he said.
For his part, Konge said he’s been carrying on business as usual for the last two years, despite the stress attached to the original process.
“I guess that’s politics,” he said.