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City council and the mysterious case of the unmentionable bylaw breach

Sanctions against city councillor for unspecified code of conduct violation at May 10 council meeting defeated despite a majority in favour.
thompson city councillor earl colbourne
Thompson city councillor Earl Colbourne won’t face sanctions for an unspecified code of conduct bylaw breach at a council meeting in May because not enough of his colleagues voted in favour of them at the Sept. 20 meeting.

After a deliberately vague and mysterious debate, a Thompson city councillor avoided being sanctioned for an equally mysterious code of conduct bylaw breach at the Sept. 20 meeting.

Votes opposing an unspecified sanction against Coun. Earl Colbourne were cast by councillors Les Ellsworth and Duncan Wong, thereby sparing their council colleague punishment for … something that an investigator found that he did.

Five councillors voted in favour of the sanction but, although Colbourne and Coun. Jeff Fountain, who filed the complaint, were not allowed to vote on it, it still required a majority of all councillors plus one – six votes – in order to pass.

What is known about the breach is that it occurred at the May 10 council meeting, that it cost $5,079 for the city to investigate and that the external investigator hired by the city – People First HR Services – found Colbourne had contravened four sections of the council code of conduct bylaw.

It is also evident from the vague debate that the breach was something Colbourne said.

“I agree some of the comments he made shouldn’t have been made,” Ellsworth said, suggesting that had Mayor Colleen Smook ruled on a point of privilege and two points of order raised at that meeting, the breach could have been avoided. 

Fountain, who was allowed to participate in the debate, disagreed. 

“That is not the case at all,” he said. “Coun. Colbourne had effectively committed the breach before the point of privilege and points of order were raised.”

Perhaps the breach may possibly have occurred when Colbourne mentioned during debate on the budget that the city was expecting labour costs to rise 1.8 per cent. Councillors are not allowed to make public what council discuss during in-camera sessions that are closed to outsiders.

The person who was found guilty of the breach maintained that he was not.

“One comment, I’m innocent,” Colbourne said before the vote.