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Fort Frances councillor resigns

Coun. David Kircher announced his resignation after the integrity commissioner found him in violation of the municipal code of conduct.
Coun. David Kircher, third from right, resigned from his position this week. (file photo)

FORT FRANCES – After integrity commissioner David G. Boghosian presented his report and council voted to accept his recommendations, Coun. David Kircher said he planned to resign before walking out of council chambers on Monday.

In a press release, Gabrielle Lecuyer, municipal clerk, confirmed that Kircher officially resigned his council position effective immediately.

Kircher was put under the microscope after multiple occurrences where he conducted council business without approval through his municipal and personal email.

By doing so, Kircher was compromising sensitive council business not meant to be public.

In the 30-page report, the complaint by council and staff outlined that “Kircher's use of municipal email, his circumventing of the CAO, council's sole employee, and his implication of bad faith actions by members of administration and council” were grounds for investigation by the integrity commissioner.

Boghosian’s report stated that Kircher violated the municipal code of conduct relating to business dealing with Agency One First Nations, Forestry Mill Logging Licence/Demolition, Facilities Maintenance and Repair, Rainy Lake Market, RRFDC Contract Renewal, committee of adjustment.

Kircher was given multiple warnings by staff and council that conducting business outside of council chambers would lead him to be investigated.

During the investigation, Kircher defended himself by stating “all of my communications that are the subject of this investigation were motivated by a desire to protect and advance the best interests of the town and of my constituents.

“There is a well-established pattern of councillors communicating with one another and with town staff by email that is very much standard operating procedure on council. It is ironic that I am being investigated for purported violations of the open meeting principle when all my actions and communications have been targeted at bringing into the open what has taken place behind closed doors.”

However, upon asking for evidence of other councillors conducting council business via their municipal email, Boghosian said in the report that Kircher didn’t provide Boghosian with any email evidence to support his claims.

After reaching out to Kircher for comment regarding the integrity commissioner's report, Kircher has yet to respond.

The majority of Kircher’s efforts involved gathering documentation about the Boundary Waters Sustainable Forest License.

“Resolute FP Canada Inc. had completely shut down its Fort Frances facility in December 2013 and publicly announced its permanent closure in May 2014. The Fort Frances mill processed about 1,500 cords of wood in a 24-hour period at capacity - a lot of wood allocated not being harvested and processed. Why didn’t members of council use this information for the benefit of their constituents?” Kircher wrote to Boghosian.

However, Boghosian found his “explanation is not credible” because the mill was already demolished.  

“There was no longer a mill in Fort Frances to process any wood covered by the Boundary Waters Sustainable Forest License. I remain of the view that Coun. Kircher simply wanted to have council initiate a witch hunt to punish those he felt had let the town down with respect to the mill closure and the Forest License,” Boghosian wrote in the report.

Boghosian believed Kircher's “witch hunt” was directed toward Coun. John McTaggart. Kircher's correspondence with McTaggart led Boghosian to believe Kircher was accusing “McTaggart of misleading council” by his inaction to prevent the mill closure and Boundary Waters Sustainable Forest License which Resolute no longer holds.

Boghosian asked Kircher to provide evidence of McTaggart misleading council, but, according to the report, “Kircher simply repeated reference to the emails he had previously sent me which were not responsive to my question.”

Mayor Andrew Hallikas said: "I have really no comment other than to say that the integrity commission's report, which is a public document, speaks for itself. The integrity commissioner presented his findings to council in a very clear, direct and unequivocal manner."

As a result of the investigation, Boghosian outlined several recommendations including a 55-day suspension without pay; however, Kircher decided to resign.

Council will now need to decide how to fill the vacancy. Lecuyer will present her recommendation to council on May 27 to either hold a by-election or fill the vacancy by appointment.

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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