Mayor accused of ‘muzzling’ Township Council members

Councillor Kim Richter has asked for a legal opinion after she was ruled out of order for questions asked during a public hearing

Does Mayor Jack Froese have the legal right to prohibit a councillor from quizzing a speaker at a public hearing?

Councillor Kim Richter asked for a legal opinion after she was ruled out of order by Froese during a public hearing on Oct. 15

Froese made the same ruling on questions from Councillors Charlie Fox and Steve Ferguson, but only Richter challenged him after he stopped her from asking a question that apparently did not pertain directly to the discussion at a hearing.

Later in the meeting, Richter presented a motion seeking a legal opinion, charging that the “muzzling” of council members “does not demonstrate good governance or good service to the public.”

Before the motion could be debated, Councillor Bob Long suggested that the matter be referred to council’s Oct. 29 workshop.

Before every public hearing, the mayor or senior planner reads a preamble that spells out council’s responsibilities, and those of the public.

“Decorum must be maintained at all times (and) this includes refraining from applause, booing or heckling.”

On Monday, Froese read: “Council members should not express their views nor debate the bylaws, but may question speakers to clarify particular points in the submissions.”

During a hearing to remove age restrictions from a new development in the 7700 block of 200 Street, Richter had wanted to ask speaker Jacob de Raadt a question.

Richter said later that she was interested in hearing what de Raadt, a professional engineer, had to say on Universal Design, a concept to produce buildings, products and environments that are accessible both to the able-bodied ad those with a disability.

De Raadt was one of a handful of speakers who support Universal Design and Safer Homes Standards.

“I was interested in hearing his opinion on the matter,” Richter said later.

She chided the mayor for restricting members of the public from expressing themselves in council chambers.

“But he’s crossed the line when he restricts duly elected councillors from asking questions of the public.

“I am very disappointed in how this mayor runs a public meeting.

“We are servants of the people we represent and should always respect that. I believe the mayor owes me and the public an apology.”

It was de Raadt whom Froese asked several times to respect the five-minute limit on speakers at public hearings.