Fort McMurray mayor under investigation by integrity commissioner after incident with councillor

Mayor Don Scott is under investigation by Wood Buffalo’s integrity commissioner after an incident with another councillor, CBC News has confirmed through sources.

Scott is accused of verbally and physically abusing Coun. Keith McGrath during an altercation that lasted several minutes on June 25th, sources say.

Scott and McGrath have declined comment.

In a letter to Scott obtained by CBC, McGrath wrote, “…an incident occurred between us whereby you not only yelled at me and used profanity, but you also laid your hands on me several times outside our meeting room while I was trying to exit the meeting to collect my thoughts.”

In a letter to Mayor Scott obtained by CBC, McGrath alleged that Scott yelled and laid his hands on him. (Submitted)

According to sources, the June incident unfolded when McGrath questioned Scott during an in-camera council meeting prompting an outburst from the mayor.

Scott allegedly insulted McGrath, using foul language, sources said. The mayor is accused of following McGrath as he left the room and continued to follow him to the elevator, into the stairwell, down seven flights of stairs and out into the parking lot.

McGrath wrote that “no member of council or the administrative staff should be made to fear an emotional outburst or verbal or physical abuse if they disagree with you or disappoint you in our decisions.”

Coun. Keith McGrath. (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo)

McGrath then requested a formal, written apology and a pledge that Scott stop using emotions when working with others. 

“Hopefully, by responding to me in writing, it will serve to better impress upon you the seriousness of this issue and prevent further incidents.”

In an email obtained by CBC from June 28, McGrath sent the letter to Scott stating, “I [sic] offering you the following for consideration to draw this to a close.”

Scott sent a response six hours later offering his “unequivocal apology for my part in this incident,” alongside the verbal apology he gave the day of the incident. 

Scott sent an email back to McGrath apologizing for the incident. (Submitted)

“While I disagree with your interpretation of the events of that day, I recognize that my actions contributed to an unfortunate and emotional situation,” wrote Scott. 

“Just as you have done, I recognize my own failings and areas in which I can improve, and I too hope we can put this behind us as we attend to our primary responsibilities as elected officials,” wrote Scott. 

A complaint was initially investigated by the RCMP. Officers spoke to councillors and staff, but no charges have been laid, sources said.

A spokesperson with RCMP said due to procedural fairness, police would only confirm an investigation if it led to charges. 

“In general, should any investigation not generate sufficient evidence to support the laying of criminal charges, the RCMP would conclude its file and advise the complainant privately of this result,” wrote Cpl. Ronald Bumbry.

Integrity commissioner Jim Peacock and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) would not confirm the investigation.

McGrath declined to be interviewed at this time.

“At this time I reserve my comment for the sake of the community and more importantly my family,” he said in an email.

Mayor Don Scott issued a statement on Facebook saying the process with the integrity commissioner hasn’t been concluded, and he therefore can’t speak about the issue. (Facebook)

On Facebook, Scott posted, “In the case of a process involving the Integrity Commissioner that has not yet been concluded, I am bound by obligations of confidentiality to not speak about the event it addresses or that process.”

“When the time is appropriate, I look forward to speaking openly about it.”

Scott, who has a law firm in Fort McMurray, was voted into office in Oct 2017 after four-term mayor Melissa Blake retired from politics.

-with files from Andrea Huncar

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