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Ontario councillor loses day’s pay for saying ‘judgement day’ awaits vaccine supporters


Coun. Daryl Herlick ‘is of the view that he, as a believer, is obligated to call out and raise concern if you see sin,’ a report says

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Perth County council officially reprimanded Coun. Daryl Herlick and docked him one day’s pay after he was found to have breached council’s code of conduct for the second time in a little more than a year.

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At Thursday’s regular council meeting, Dasha Peregoudova, a labour and employment lawyer with Toronto’s Aird Berlis law firm, and Perth County’s integrity commissioner presented a report on the results of the firm’s third-party investigation into a formal complaint lodged against Herlick following comments he made during a discussion around the implementation of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for non-unionized county employees during a closed-doors council meeting on Nov. 4, 2021.

According to the report, Herlick said any of his fellow councillors who were in support of such a vaccine mandate would face punishment in the afterlife and in a “reckoning” or “judgement day” as described by the Christian faith. Though the person who lodged the complaint was not named in accordance with county policy, the report stated that the complaint alleged that Herlick’s comments were aggressive, inappropriate and offensive, particularly to those who are not Christian.

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The complainant also noted that Herlick’s “assurances of Biblical punishment were inappropriate in a council meeting setting and when considering matters of public policy.”

According to the complaint, Herlick’s remarks breached the general-integrity clause in Perth County council’s code of conduct, which states, “Members will be open and honest, focus on issues rather than personalities and avoid aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct.”

“The purpose of our investigation with this complaint, like any other complaint, is not to make assessments or place value on the councillor’s beliefs … nor his opinions on vaccination policies,” Peregoudova said after reporting that her investigation had found Herlick had breached council’s code of conduct. “The sole purpose of our investigation was to determine whether the councillor breached the code of conduct by virtue of the comments made at that meeting specifically.

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” … We are recommending, based on the totality of the findings and taking into account that this is the second breach of the code to have been found committed by Coun. Herlick this term, … the suspension of remuneration for a period of 10 days.”

Herlick was previously reprimanded by council on Sept. 2, 2021 after he was found to have breached council’s code of conduct by posing for a photograph on Feb. 4, 2021 with members of Liberty Coalition Canada’s End the Lockdown Caucus — a far-right advocacy group established in January 2021 in protest of pandemic restrictions — in which those photographed did not wear masks, practise social distancing or adhere to public-gathering limits during a declared state of emergency and stay-at-home order.

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While Herlick was found not to have breached the code of conduct because of his affiliation with the liberty coalition, investigators found the code was breached when he posed for and shared the photo on social media. Though the investigators said Herlick may have believed he was representing the public and considering the wellbeing and interests of the municipality, they determined he could have advocated against pandemic restrictions without breaking the laws or rules that were in place, as expected from an elected official.

Though Herlick was told several times at Thursday’s meeting that he would be allowed only to comment on the recommendations of the Aird Berlis investigators, he repeatedly referred to the investigation as frivolous and suggested Perth County Warden Jim Aitcheson “call me to order” if Herlick were ever to step out of line while speaking at council meetings in the future.

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“It’s safe to say that all of council here has been called to order or called point of order, and I get maybe that wasn’t the way the (complainant) wanted to take the route here, but business really did continue well through that meeting. … I have no problem with a phone call or through the warden, give me call. I’m a fair fella. Staff reaches out to me regular(ly) and I talk with many councillors regularly,” Herlick said, before being interrupted by Aitcheson attempting to refocus Herlick’s remarks on the report’s recommendations.”

Based on the responses Herlick gave them after they shared with him their findings, the investigators said in their report that it was clear Herlick “feels overwhelmingly justified in relying on his faith to advocate for his position on issues, as he genuinely believes that mandatory vaccination policies are harmful to citizens. He also has general concerns for humanity or morality related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The councillor appears to strongly adhere to his interpretation of these events as they relate to Christianity, and accordingly, he is of the view that he, as a believer, is obligated to ‘call out and raise concern if you see sin.’”

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When it came time to put the investigators’ recommendation to dock Herlick 10 days’ pay to a vote, the motion was defeated on an even split with Herlick’s colleagues from Perth East council voting against it.

Similarly, a motion to officially reprimand Herlick was also defeated.

Ultimately, the majority of council opted to dock the councillor one day’s pay along with an official reprimand from council.

“We have something of a history of trying to rely on expertise, and, in this particular case, the integrity commissioner has made an expert recommendation which we have rebuffed,” Coun. Todd Kasenberg said. “I just find it interesting in this case that we have spurned a recommendation and … I express some concern about that.”

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“I think we have to show the public that we do not agree with (this), that there was a code-of-conduct breach,” Coun. Bob Wilhelm said before council voted.

Later in the meeting, Coun. Hugh McDermid asked staff to bring back a report on the costs and staff time associated with integrity commissioner investigations that will include information on why the names of those who lodge complaints with the commissioner are kept confidential.

“I would just ask for support to end the code of conduct,” McDermid said. “It does not allow you to know who is accusing you and I’d just like to know where that came from. … I just find that extremely un-Canadian because in Canada you do get the right to face your accuser.”

Galen Simmons is a reporter at the Stratford Beacon Herald

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