Leeds and the Thousand Islands Township Councillor Tom Lawler resigned Tuesday night, calling the council a “circus” and citing a leadership vacuum.
“It is wearing to continue on with the circus that is going on there,” Lawler said the morning after he resigned from his post as Ward One councillor.
Lawler, who was in his second term as Ward One councillor, announced his resignation at the end of the meeting.
“I had reservations going into this term but I was optimistic,” he said. “I’ve really known since February there was no real leadership there.”
Lawler tendered his resignation, saying he was at a loss for direction and was unable to continue under the current council.
“I’ve had enough,” Lawler said in an interview Wednesday. “It will take an act of God to change the way council is run.”
The township was embroiled in controversy following the sudden dismissal, in February, of its then-CAO Malcolm Morris, but Lawler said his decision was not motivated by a single incident, but rather an accumulation of things.
A former Gananoque police officer, Lawler also served as that town’s deputy mayor.
“I’ve worked under very strong leadership in those positions,” he said.
He added he has no sense of such leadership in the current council and does not feel it’s up to him to provide it.
“The big top’s up and the clowns are running around and there’s no lion tamer there to kind of control things,” he said.
Lawler stated the following on Tuesday night in his official letter of resignation: “I am at a loss for any vision or direction. I have been a councillor in two municipalities under very strong leadership. Unfortunately the current leadership in our township makes it impossible for me to continue as Ward One councillor within this administration. I am not in a position to represent my constituents under the hope that a new leader will emerge who can better govern our township.”
Deputy Mayor Heidi Conarroe didn’t agree with Lawler’s decision.
“I will honour your request as much as I don’t want to,” she said. “It’s a bittersweet moment. It’s like dropping your kids off at university. You don’t want to, but you know it’s what is best for them.”
The motion to accept Lawler’s resignation was met with only one opposing vote coming from Councillor Velma Kelsey.
Mayor Bruce Bryan said on Wednesday morning that the decision was unexpected.
“I didn’t know he was planning on doing this, but he’s a busy person with a lot to do,” he said. “I’m sorry for Mr. Lawler leaving.”
The mayor rejected the departing councillor’s harsh criticism of council’s functioning.
“We’ve had difficult things we’ve had to get done and we are doing our best to straighten things around, but I don’t think it’s a circus,” Mayor Bryan said.
“We’ve had our problems with things there and the decisions we’ve made, but I’ve been through 20 years of council and have been through worse.”
Township Clerk Vanessa Latimer said on Wednesday she is obligated by law to declare the seat vacant at the next council meeting, which will be held on May 9.
“I then have 60 days to fill the seat,” she said. “So it has to be filled by July 8. That leaves us with two options. Council can appoint someone or we can have a byelection. I’m not having a byelection.”
Residents from Ward One will be able to apply to fill the vacant seat. After the application process is complete, council will have a special meeting where it will nominate someone from the interested applicants.
From Brockville Recorder & Times