Hampstead councillor rejects resident request to abstain from votes

Hampstead councillor Cheryl Weigensberg during the April 1 council meeting.

Hampstead councillor Cheryl Weigensberg established during the April 1 council meeting that she is remaining in the town, but is not running in this November's municipal election.

She was responding to council regular and mayoral candidate Jeremy Levi, who said Navdeep Bains resigned as a federal minister this past January, because he was not running for re-election.

Levi had heard that Weigensberg was not running for re-election and, in what turns out to have been an erroneous rumour, that she was moving out of Hampstead after having sold her house.

"The Quebec Municipal Ethics and Good Conduct Act — which is the law that ensures that the members of every council of a municipality explicitly adhere to the main ethical values of the municipality – clearly states in section 4(5) that every town’s Code of Ethics must address – among other values – ‘loyalty to the municipality’. These values must guide council members in their understanding of the rules of conduct that apply to them."

Levi added that nothing in the law requires the councillor to resign, and he was not suggesting she do so.

"However, the town’s Code of Ethics fails to address this important value set out in the law. Moreover, there is usually an inherent understanding among decision-makers to make the right and honourable decisions for themselves, similar to how Navdeep Bains stepped down."

Levi said he and his supporters are asking that Weigensberg "abstain from any and all future votes, effective immediately.

"This in no way, is a criticism of her carrying out of her duties and past performance. We thank her very much for her tireless efforts to this municipality and wish her the best of luck. However, it is hard to question whether her heart is still in it. To be clear, this is not the same as a councillor choosing not to run in the next election, as that councillor would still have a vested interest as a resident in the municipality.

"Furthermore, we are also requesting that the code of ethics immediately be amended to include all six values that are required to be in there."

Weigensberg established that while she did sell her home, and part of her family is leaving the town, she still lives in Hampstead.

"I have a rental, and I plan to stay in Hampstead for as long as I can, which is definitely going to be more than a year, because I have a lease for more than a year," she said. "No, I am not stepping down. My desire to serve Hampstead and do what is right for Hampstead has always been there. It is still there, and the fact that I'm not going to go for re-election allows me to truly make decisions that are only based on what I believe is right for Hampstead.

"So, simply put, no, I am not stepping down and yes, I am staying in Hampstead. That's all I have to say."

Councillor Jack Edery commented that Weigensberg "was elected to serve her term, and to question her loyalty to Hampstead is just ludicrous. To insinuate she should step down or recuse herself as she has some kind of dual loyalty, it reminds me of the dual loyalty canard that is levied towards Jews. It's really not called for."

"Between the two of you, there's nothing left for me to say," Mayor William Steinberg said. "I agree fully with both councillors. It's absurd. I don't doubt for a minute she will act in the best interests of the town to the best of her ability. It's ridiculous and I don't appreciate the implications."

Contacted after the meeting, Levi said council "chose to hear what they wanted to hear.

"I never asked Councillor Weigensberg to resign or step down, I made that very clear. I was highlighting the fact that the Town’s code of ethics fails to address section 4(5) of the Quebec Municipal Ethics and Good Conduct Act (the “Act”) , which deals with 'loyalty to the municipality.' My request was that when and if Councillor Weigensberg moves out of Hampstead, she should not be exercising her vote on council. Furthermore, I also asked council to amend the town’s Code of Ethics to ensure that all six values in the Act are properly addressed, which council completely ignored."

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