Joe Fontana renews vow to stay put, despite leave of absence request
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If there was any ambiguity left, Mayor Joe Fontana has cleared it up.
He’s staying on as London’s top municipal politician despite allegations — and an RCMP investigation — that he misused taxpayer money while serving as an MP in 2005.
“I treat the allegations that have been levied as serious, but I have not and will not allow them to be a distraction from my duties and obligations of my office,” Fontana wrote in a statement posted to his website Monday night. “I will not stand aside or leave my responsibilities as mayor. I will continue to work on behalf of Londoners.”
The mayor thanked his allies for rising “above the rhetoric” and staying on course.
Others, he said, “have made it challenging for us to stay focused on what is important and to our daily work schedules.”
The affirmation of his stance comes as some councillors plan to revive a motion asking that Fontana take a leave until the allegations are resolved.
Coun. Nancy Branscombe failed to get the two-thirds support needed to open a similar motion for debate during council’s Oct. 30 meeting.
The new call — led by Coun. Joni Baechler — is slated for the finance and administrative services committee’s meeting on Monday.
At least two people on the five-member committee — Branscombe and Coun. Paul Hubert — are expected to support Baechler. That would mean enough support to push a recommendation ahead for debate at council’s Dec. 11 meeting.
Even if a request for a leave of absence wins support from a majority of council, it carries no weight under the Municipal Act.
But, Hubert said, it makes an important statement and represents concerns he’s hearing from the community.
“It’s not about Joe,” the councillor said. “It’s about the role of the mayor and integrity from the mayor’s office.”
The following politicians sit on council’s finance and administrative services committee. Here’s where they stood in an Oct. 30 vote to open debate on a motion asking that Mayor Joe Fontana take a leave of absence.
— Fontana: No
— Coun. Paul Hubert: Yes
— Coun. Joni Baechler: Absent
— Coun. Nancy Branscombe: Yes, presented the motion
— Coun. Denise Brown: No