Protests Pelham council’s action against Mayor
Almost two weeks ago, John Harding and his wife pulled out of their driveway and headed down Roland Road for a cruise in the country. As they passed Mayor Marvin Junkin’s house a couple kilometres further on, Harding’s mind flashed back to the political shenanigans of late in the Town of Pelham, and decided at that moment that it was time to act—to try to right a wrong, even if in a small way.
The two men were not close friends…more like acquaintances. Their paths had crossed many years ago when they were both coaching their kids’ hockey teams, but they had not conversed in over a decade.
Still, Harding felt compelled to do something for Junkin—and to send a message to the community.
“Like most other folks in Pelham, my wife and I felt we elected these people thinking they were going to be a big change from the last council,” said Harding. “Then we find out about investigations costing 18 grand of our money, which should have resulted in no more than a slap on the wrist for the Mayor.”
Harding’s comments were in reference to accusations brought against the Mayor by Councillor Ron Kore, related to Junkin’s fundraising for the volunteer-run Fonthill Bandshell Committee—which prompted two formal investigations. Pelham taxpayers are on the hook for the $18,000 cost of one of the inquiries. At council’s June 15 meeting, debate took place over potential punishment for Junkin pursuant to the municipal Integrity Commissioner determination that Junkin had made technical violations of the Town’s Code of Conduct. Given that Junkin did so without “nefarious intent,” the Integrity Commissioner recommended that council issue a letter of reprimand.
However, after Councillors Bob Hildebrandt and Ron Kore started the debate by apparently violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, Councillor Lisa Haun chimed in to argue that Junkin should also be docked 45 days’ salary, plucking some $4000 from his pocket.
The final straw for Harding was when he learned that during the same meeting, council had turned down $75,000 in provincial grant money to help pay to pave part of the Steve Bauer Trail, which would have allowed better access to disabled citizens, along with bicyclists and hikers. The Pelham Active Transportation Committee (PATC) had endorsed acceptance of the grant.
“My attitude was, come on guys…why are we here?” said Harding.
A perennial volunteer for Pelham Cares, where he drives seniors to appointments, Harding expects that Junkin will donate the GoFundMe proceeds to a local charity. The fundraising target is $4000, matching the salary loss.
Contacted by the Voice for comment, Junkin said he was humbled.
“I’m very flattered that Mr. Harding would do this for me. I won’t be able to accept the money—municipal rules don’t allow it—but I would indeed love to see whatever funds are collected be donated to a worthy cause, and there are certainly many to choose from,” he said.
As of this writing some $300 had been pledged by five donors.
Small-town politics, it seems, don’t have to be difficult or messy, ugly or vindictive. Those interested in contributing to Harding’s effort may find his GoFundMe appeal here: https://gf.me/u/ydsd5r