Commentary update to Mayor's Half Mea Culpa posted May 9. As a follow up to this earlier post, MNW would like to point readers to The Bracebridge Weekender, May 11th Edition, p. 35, in which Mayor Alice Murphy is quoted as saying that she had apologized for not using her gavel properly. Glad it was just a case of gavel gap. So Bang Bang, Murphy's wooden gavel didn't come down upon her head. Bang, bang, Murphy chose to use her out loud voice instead. Which, in retrospect, was probably better anyway for the target of the reported reprimand.
Furthermore, several sources now say there was no closed sidebar meeting of council members during that April 16th public council meeting. Earlier newspaper reports suggested council members 'went behind closed doors'. In fact, the Mayor reportedly announced at the break that no closed session was occurring. One source claims there were only three council members who went into a room with the door closed for a few minutes before the public session resumed. No quorum: no closed session. it still makes MNW — and many of our readers — wonder if the reprimands didn't end in public session. Again to clarify: no municipal act broken; only a question of power potentially abused.
Original post follows.
“I thought I was wrong once, but I found out later I was mistaken.” (E. Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang).
Having had some experience with mea culpas, I can feel empathy for Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy who reportedly kicked this week’s council meeting off with an apology. Yet I wonder if my modicum of empathy will evaporate if, and when, I ever find out what single incident (or incidents) for which she was apologizing. Perhaps this was a blanket apology for any or all past mistakes? Chopping down a cherry tree or dumping sand in a river or…?
Confused? Prepare to be more so. Had I been at the meeting myself I could have asked her worship directly what transgression had her feeling so apologetic. I truly regret having missed this opportunity. I’m sorry. I’ll try and be there for the next one. Fortunately, my sources are sound and here is what they say happened at the Township Council meeting on Monday, May 7.
A courteous yet confusing apology
At the start of meeting, Mayor Alice Murphy reportedly made a statement about making mistakes and issued an apology for no specific mistake and to no one person or group in particular. In a nutshell, according to all sources, she commented that when people make mistakes, they should say so, and they should apologize, and so she did.
Not specific enough for you? Can’t say I disagree. Here’s how one source retold it to me:
“After the Mayor introduced four children who were ‘mayors for a day’, she proceeded to confuse many in attendance. Her opening comments were to state that when someone does something wrong, it is courteous to offer an apology. The source says this was offered up in a voice that might be compared to a teacher giving a life lesson, perhaps to the four young mayors of the day. “She said that the job she does is very demanding and if she makes a mistake she apologizes for it (it being the mistake, not for her demanding job),” the source recalled.
According to this source, the Mayor proceeded to say: "Therefore, I offer my apologies. Likewise, if someone makes a mistake that affects me I would expect an apology. So I offer my apology.”
Note: MNW apologizes in advance to the Mayor if the sources quoted here may have missed a word or misheard the apology. Is everybody sorry so far? Good. Let’s move on.
At this point, sources say that some members of the audience asked their immediate neighbours to explain what was going on. Some of those who called me after the meeting said they believed the apology could have been related to the April 16 Council meeting in which Council and the public were informed of some agreement being reached, allegedly independently by some member or members of council, with the Adams Bay cottagers to block contractors from use of the public docks (your MNW editor doesn’t even know where to start with that action, which in my opinion is a BIG mistake. HUGE. An action that a little research would shown had already been tested and found wanting. But it could score high marks for pandering. This story is developing and I need a bit of time to peel back the layers and history on it myself. See any of our local media for initial coverage on the Adams Bay launch issue (or read Battle on the Docks) and Wayne Judge’s follow up letters to the editor in the Bracebridge Examiner to gauge the level of anger this issue has ignited).
Fortunately, in commentary, one can comment on what is heard from sources and put for theories of one's own (and ethically you need three sources for pure reportage and there were more than three people present). But I’d still rather hear it from the horse’s mouth. Wouldn’t you? Maybe the media that were at Monday’s meeting will have the story in the Wednesday weeklies. Surely someone has asked Mayor Murphy to detail the transgression for which she felt compelled to apologize? (Note to self: Send Tweet question to Mayor ASAP).
Was it an apology to Council? To Contractors? To Herself?
Until we get clarification, your guess is as good as mine. From reading recent headlines, it appears likely the Mayor may have already apologized for unpaid water bills while complaining about the way such notices of overdue payment are delivered (See Draconian Water Problems). Certainly, the contractors who drive our local economy probably feel they deserve an apology for the additional risk being placed on the upcoming construction season that is already often too short for all jobs to be completed. And, if the stories told are true, it seems to me that maybe the entire Council deserves an apology for separate discussions being called in the middle of meetings as apparently was the case on April 16 (and has reportedly happened before when one or two members of council express opposing opinions). While one source told me today that the Mayor announced ‘this is not a closed meeting’ before Council left the council chamber, other sources claim the Council left the April 16 meeting en masse and had a discussion and then returned to the public meeting without ever declaring a reason for a Closed session or admitting a separate meeting ever took place. The Bracebridge Examiner reported Council went behind closed doors. If reported accurately, that action deserves more than an apology. It deserves an investigation into whether Closed Meeting rules were potentially violated.
Forgiveness can be earned and granted. A mea culpa is a good start. Much progress could be made if those who voted for the Mayor could see a true example of the accountability she promised would be forthcoming on the campaign trail. We’ll forgive her for the ‘no more closed meetings’ promise. She just didn’t know the ropes then. She does now.
So Mayor, you’ve got our attention. ’Fess up in full and you might earn some respect, too.
Comment by Norah Fountain