Mayor's apology: Cockayne: Personal matter dripped into politics

Published on Wednesday, 9 August 2017 21:13
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Staff Report

BRISTOL - Mayor Ken Cockayne says “a family matter” is at the core of another personal complaint made against him.

The issue was revived at Monday night’s City Council meeting, when he apologized unprompted to Councilor Jodi Zils Gagne, who is also his second cousin.

It was enough for Councilman Calvin Brown to call for an executive session to discuss what he called the “new sexual harassment complaint” against the mayor. The confidential session never happened, though, because the required notice was not provided, despite reports to the contrary.

An explanation for the apology was limited to a concise comment from the mayor:

“There has been tension between myself and Gagne, and this has been caused by a family matter that was taken too far and into politics. We are looking to move past this and iron out our differences.”

Brown then asked, “what does this have to do with city business?”

Cockayne responded, “It’s a personal matter, and we will leave it at that.”

Brown then asked Ferguson, “Is it true that in June of 2017, your office was made aware of another sexual harassment complaint involving the mayor?”

Ferguson said, “In June of 2017, Jodi Zils Gagne brought a matter to my attention between herself and the mayor. She said that it was personal, and that they were going to be handling it themselves.”

During the meeting Cockayne said “there is no complaint,” however, the city’s personnel director, Diane Ferguson, said Zils Gagne had brought “a matter” to her attention in June.

“There is no pending complaint, and I am not going to make one. It’s a family matter that spilled over into politics.” Zils Gagne said on Wednesday. She had not commented during the meeting.

Complaint or not, Brown, a long-time critic of the mayor, said in the meeting that he was “starting to sense a pattern of behavior [with the mayor] where there is sort of the inability to separate the personal from the professional.”

Brown explained that he had asked for the executive session because he was “still a little bit confused about what that was that happened” and “the personnel director’s response.”

“However, these are the facts as I understand them. A new sexual harassment complaint was made against the mayor in June 2017,” Brown said. “It’s August now and we have not, and by we I mean the City Council, have not been kept appraised of that complaint.”

Brown referred to a city-initiated report by attorney Michael Rose, saying it said the “council should be kept appraised” of all complaints. Rose, who investigated harassment claims for the city after a female employee in the city attorney’s office complained of sexual harassment by Cockayne as well as retaliation against her. Rose determined Cockayne had retaliated against Noelle Bates, a legal secretary, for making the complaint, but did not confirm the harassment.

Yesterday, Cockayne commented:

“This is a typical Democratic politician at their best in Bristol. Calvin Brown showed what a bully he is. It’s a pattern for Democratic candidates for the past three terms of mine. They are running nothing but a smear campaign, and the people of Bristol are smarter than that.”

Ed Krawiecki, the city’s corporation counsel, said the council had “to give an advanced notice” for such a session and is “now looking to set a date.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Forestville, General News on Wednesday, 9 August 2017 21:13. Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2017 21:16.