By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Chatham-Kent Coun. Rhonda Jubenville believes in freedom of speech and in representing her constituents.
And even though she’s facing recommended sanctions from the municipality’s Integrity Commissioner for violating the code of conduct for elected officials, Jubenville says she was just doing her job.
“Chatham-Kent is a conservative and Christian-based community and these are the values and views that I represent,” Jubenville told The Voice in a recent interview, noting she has received an abundance of support from the community regarding the issue.
“In a nutshell, what I’m doing is speaking up for the constituents of Chatham-Kent,” Jubenville explained. “It makes sense that I am receiving support from this community.”
A recent probe by C-K Integrity Commissioner Mary Ellen Bench determined Jubenville was in violation of two sections of the Code of Conduct, in regard to social media posts largely relating to flying Pride flags on municipal and a school’s property.
In a 47-page report, Bench said she had received “many complaints” about social media posts and related behaviour between April and June of this year, stating Jubenville had used “her influence as a public official” to intimidate others, utilizing “bully tactics to silence her critics.”
Bench recommends that Jubenville’s remuneration for serving on council be suspended for three months, which is the harshest penalty that can be given. Her fellow councillors will vote on the matter at the Aug. 14 council meeting, following a presentation by Bench, as well as a deputation by Jubenville’s lawyer Michael Alexander.
Jubenville said she’s not yet sure if she will be taking legal action on the issue. But whatever the outcome, the councillor said it won’t interfere with her commitment to represent the people of Chatham-Kent.
“Silencing the people of the municipality is very scary, if that does happen,” Jubenville said. “If they silence me, they’re silencing the people who support me,” the councillor said. “This is about freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and freedom of religion.”
Jubenville said she understands diversity and would not want a council “full of conservatives and Christians.
“I appreciate that everyone on council has different beliefs…we all bring something different to the community.”
Even if her colleagues vote to dock her pay, Jubenville said it won’t affect her role as a councillor.
“It’s not going to be an issue, I’m still going to do my job, ” Jubenville said. “I’m still going to represent constituents.”
Earlier this spring, Jubenville tried unsuccessfully to get council to adopt a policy that would see only government flags flown at municipal sites, saying those represent “everyone.” The move came after a flag for Life in Motion – the educational arm of Right to Life Kent wasn’t raised at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre.
Jubenville said that all special flags should fly on municipal flag poles or not none at all. Chatham-Kent does not currently have an official flag policy. As it stands, the mayor’s office is responsible for which flags are flown on civic property.