CALUMET ISLAND MAY11, 2020
Calumet Island Mayor Serge Newberry has stepped back from his duties for an unknown period of time to health concerns, his council learned in a brief virtual meeting last Monday. This comes close on the heels of an emergency meeting that council held the previous Wednesday, where they requested that the mayor respond to allegations of assault and intimidation levelled by two councillors, Réjean Meilleur and Alice Meilleur-Pieschke, stemming from two separate alleged incidents on April 28.
They resolved that Mayor Newberry offer a response to the public before the monthly meeting on May 11, after citizens gathered for a protest on May 2, calling for Newberry’s resignation. At the time, all parties involved had declined to speak on the subject to media.
The meeting that did take place on May 11 was brief and was attended by the council, minus Newberry. Councillor Mona Donnelly stated that Newberry had informed her ealier in the day that he would be taking a leave of absence for health reasons, for an indefinite period of time. Meilleur-Pieschke, as pro-mayor, would be taking over his duties in the interim. Council also moved that their May monthly meeting be postponed until Thursday the 21st, before adjourning after less than five minutes. A recording was posted to the municipality’s Facebook page the following day.
Calumet Island has been through quite a bit of political turmoil over the past few years. In early January, councillor Meilleur was suspended for 10 days following an investigation conducted by the Commission Municipale du Quebec in 2019 over disrespectful remarks he made to municipal staff. During his suspension, council passed a resolution requesting that he pay back a portion of the legal fees resulting from the investigation, totalling $15,000. Meilleur told The Equity in January that he would contest the payment.
Prior to a council meeting in March 2018, an anonymous letter was circulated throughout the community, criticizing Newberry as well as the director general at the time. More than 50 people showed up to the subsequent meeting to voice their discontent and even ask for the mayor’s resignation.
Newberry was elected in November 2017 in a tight, four-way race that saw him edge out former Mayor Paul-Émile Maleau by less than 20 votes and former councillor Mario Tremblay by less than 50. Prior to his election, the municipality had seen four mayors come and go over the course of one term.
Two, Irene Nadeau and Pierre Fréchette, cited infighting and impropriety at the municipal office as the reason for their departure.
When Fréchette left in June 2017 after only seven months on the job, he cryptically stated: “Out of respect for my commitment to serve the people ethically, with transparency and accountability in order to maintain their confidence in the municipal apparatus, I resigned in response to an insistent demand to turn a blind eye on a situation going against stipulated contractual obligations.”
Nadeau stepped down in 2016, claiming she had conflicts with administrative staff after she questioned the municipality’s policy regarding unpaid taxes.
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