Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mayor says remark prompted threat against councillor

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BRANDON -- Days after her threat of violence against a councillor caused a controversy, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst says her outburst was provoked by a derogatory remark.

But Coun. Stephen Montague insisted on Wednesday he didn't make any such remark.

"Absolutely not," Montague said. "The audio (recording from the council meeting) speaks for itself. It's not there and I would absolutely not say that."

The Brandon Sun has chosen in the interest of good taste not to print the alleged comment.

"At minimum, this is a malicious allegation. That's ridiculous that would try to be blamed as the reason," Montague said. "To come out after the fact, that might simply to be making excuses for what I deem to be inappropriate behaviour."

Following Monday's city council meeting, where Decter Hirst reminded Montague of the protocol to direct his comments and questions to a podium speaker through her, she charged to his chair.

"Stephen, if you ever show disregard with that microphone on again, I will slap you on the back of the head so hard your head will spin," Decter Hirst said angrily.

Other sources told the Sun they didn't hear Montague say the alleged comment.

"I didn't hear that," said Coun. Jeff Harwood (University), whose chair is directly beside Montague's at the council table. "If the word was uttered, I certainly didn't hear it and Iàhad a front-row seat."

Harwood said the situation has complicated relationships on the 11-member city council and the issue will need to be addressed if the business of council is to move forward in an orderly manner.

"Whatever is happening, they have to iron this out, because it's going to be hard if they don't," Harwood said. "The two of them just have to sit down and iron out how they are going to get along, co-exist, whatever you want to call it, for the next two years. We all have to work as a unit and it's tough on all of us. This is a distraction we don't need."

Harwood said it's well-known Montague and Decter Hirst do not get along, but in his 12 years on city council, he has never seen a situation where one member of council threatened another inside the council chamber. He added there needs to be decorum and "a huge measure of civility inside that chamber," for the sake of city council.

"There has been verbal sparring between a mayor and some councils," Harwood said.

"You hear that, but never this kind of an altercation. Not at all. Monday night's display, I've never witnessed that. Ever. Iàwould hope that common sense and some decorum will prevail after this, because it was really awkward when that happened, for those of us that were close by. It was terribly awkward."

Since the exchange, Montague has publicly apologized for his protocol breach. "If I did make a procedural mistake, I have apologized for that," Montague said.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2012 A12

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