FILE -- Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs.
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THUNDER BAY -- Keith Hobbs doesn’t want to be handcuffed in helping make Thunder Bay safe.
The mayor announced he’s stepping down from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board Tuesday morning citing his past career in policing has caused frequent conflict of interest issues over the past two years.
Issues arose at Hobbs’ second police services board meeting when he suggested a suspended officer return to work instead of collecting pay while off the job. This caused the police services board to request an investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission.
“For seven months I was off the board while they investigated me,” Hobbs said in a phone interview Tuesday morning.
The suspended officer eventually returned to work with all charges against him dropped, but the OCPC laid restrictions on Hobbs that he had to declare conflict on any discipline issues with officers or bargaining issues.
“It came to the point at meetings that I was out of the room more than I was in,” he said, adding he was also reprimanded by the board when he made suggestions about how the police chief should handle the rash of convenience store robberies in the city.
“I was being treated as a police services board member first and as mayor second and I’m mayor first and I’m a member of the police services board as a result of me being mayor,” Hobbs said.
“If I can’t go to the chief of police as mayor of the city of Thunder Bay and suggest we get a handle on our robberies then I don’t need to be on that police services board. I need to just be the mayor,” he added.
The mayor met with police chief J.P. Levesque Tuesday morning and said the two had a good talk and they have a good relationship.
“I want to be able to sit down in his office or him come sit in my office and talk about policing issues without someone scrutinizing me that I’m interfering with day-to-day operations of the service,” said Hobbs.
Police services board chairman Joe Virdiramo said the board supports Hobbs’ decision and will continue to work with him in his role as mayor.
“There were (conflict) issues in relation to discipline issues and whatnot. He took that into consideration, made a decision and we’re going to carry on, move forward and keep this city safe,” Virdiramo said.
A new city council representative will be selected to fill the vacant seat on the board on Oct. 22.
Below is the news release issued to media from the mayor's office in its entirety.
Mayor’s Statement on Stepping Down from Police Services Board October 16, 2012 – Mayor Keith Hobbs has advised City Council that he is stepping down from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board and made the following statement:
I have advised the Thunder Bay Police Services Board that I am stepping down from the Board after nearly two years of service.
The Board is accepting of my decision given that my past career in policing has frequently created situations where I must declare a conflict and remove myself from specific deliberations. As well, removing myself from the Board will allow me to more freely comment on community safety matters as is expected of the Mayor of any municipality.
This is a mutually acceptable change in the composition of the board. A new City Council representative will be selected on October 22.
I wish the Board all the very best in their deliberations as they oversee the provision of police services in the City of Thunder Bay and on a contract basis to Oliver Paipoonge.
The Board is the civilian trustee of the public interest as it pertains to police services in the community. The Board is made up of five members (three municipal and two provincial appointees) plus a board secretary.
The Board's mandate is legislated by the Ontario Police Services Act and can be summarized as general management and setting of policing policy.
The Chief is responsible for daily policing and other operational matters. Generally, the Board's role in shaping the structure of policing is very broad, limited by legislation only in the realm of daily operations.
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