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Controllers to discuss Howlett issue today

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter   2004-01-14 03:49:17  

London city council's board of control meets today to deal with the controversy over a supposed prank gone wrong that led to stress leave for a senior city hall manager. But with the meeting held behind closed doors and no indication yet when details will be aired, it's unclear when the public will find out further details of the issue.

Some politicians have said little or nothing on the issue, calling it a personnel matter.

"Nothing has been decided," said Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, a city controller. "We're going to get a little more understanding of the facts and then we'll go from there."

Some of the city's senior leadership team have come under fire over revelations a scheme was cooked up to trick Glenn Howlett into believing he had to complete a report on the city's corporate renewal plan long before he expected.

Howlett has been off on stress leave for almost two months and has retained London lawyer John Judson.

Judson is the same lawyer hired by former acting city manager Jeff Malpass and former human rights specialist Catherine Burr to negotiate departure settlements with the city.

Neither Howlett nor Judson has commented on the issue.

No one on board of control or council has indicated whether Howlett is seeking a buyout, or if there has been any call for discipline related to the prank.

Controller Bud Polhill said yesterday he's anxious to get more information.

"I hope we get a lot clearer information about what happened and the circumstances," he said. "(Then) we'll have to assess the situation and decide what's appropriate."

If it was a simple prank gone wrong, as The Free Press reported, Polhill said it may be understandable.

"If it was a practical joke (that pushed Howlett on stress leave), then I suppose we've all done it at one time or another and you never know how people are going to react to things you say or do."

Polhill said he expects the public will get some details, eventually.

Coun. Judy Bryant said she intends to attend board of control, but wouldn't discuss specifics, citing personnel confidentiality.

"But there's a very concerned councillor here," Bryant said. "I think we'll be dealing with some very serious issues. It's a very disappointing start to our term."

Coun. Joni Baechler also hopes to attend, but has previous commitments.

She said she wants a discussion on the issue of confidentiality before other issues can be tackled.

"There's a great deal of concern about what can or can't be said before we can go forward on discussing the issues at hand," Baechler said.

Baechler was referring, in part, to concerns raised after the hiring of a human rights specialist.

Coun. Fred Tranquilli was accused of violating rules of confidentiality when he criticized Coun. Susan Eagle and Baechler for working behind the scenes to ensure a woman filled the post.

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