By JEN CARDINES
At the April 11 City Council meeting, Democratic councilor Mary Fortier read a statement for the record in response to remarks that Mayor Ken Cockayne made in a previous meeting.
Fortier stated the city of Bristol spent over $98,000 on costs accumulated from claims made against Cockayne.
“At our February council meeting, the mayor made a statement about legal bills related to the complaint and investigation of him,” said Fortier, who recently filed for re-election in her 3rd District seat.
She said she went to City Hall to clarify the costs that accumulated from the investigation of Cockayne, who is also seeking re-election this fall. Last fall, Attorney Michael Rose conducted an investigation into claims of harassment—sexual, political, and personal—by the mayor. The report also said the mayor attempted to intimidate corporate counsel Richard Lacey when he tried to investigate the complainant’s claims.
During the February council meeting, Cockayne, a Republican, accused the Democratic Town Committee of “running up the bills” that continue to accrue regarding the investigation. The mayor also addressed Fortier on her monthly questions regarding the issue.
“This investigation was completed, the council was briefed, all recommendations have been completed, and your continuing questioning and bringing this up is nothing but impossible, trying to attempt spear campaigning politically,” said Cockayne.
The monthly discussions on investigation costs have put different dollar amounts on the record, but according to Fortier, they were not completely accurate.
“My recent review of the bills reveals a total of $98,950.48,” Fortier told the council last week. “The mayor’s numbers do not add up to either of these numbers. His numbers add up to $88,000 and they do not include the ombudsman or the firm that is actually defending the legal complaints.”
While officials were handling the case, the council convened in multiple executive sessions for discussion on the allegations and officially censured Cockayne in September. Bristol’s charter prohibits the council from any further discipline; however, Rose’s report provided recommendations at the time. The city established training for all staff and elected officials, councilors included, on civil rights matters. Fortier asked personnel director Diane Ferguson about the status of the training at several council meetings since September.
At last week’s meeting, Democratic councilor Calvin Brown announced the council completed that task, adding that April is sexual harassment prevention month.
“I want to take a moment to affirm for the citizens of Bristol that this council is committed to taking every measure that we can as a body to prevent sexual harassment here in the city,” he said. “To my knowledge, every member of this body has received sexual harassment training, so this month as we remember sexual harassment sensitivity and awareness, I wanted to make that point clear.”
Fortier ended her statement by addressing Cockayne on his February comment regarding her husband’s blog. While the mayor said Fortier should not have showed her husband – former Observer columnist David Fortier— information on the case to be put on his blog, she argued that it was not confidential. Fortier said she did give her husband an email sent by the mayor, but there was “no prohibition against sharing it.”
“There was not even a confidentiality disclosure notice on the email,” Fortier said. “As a matter of fact, one thing the attorneys did tell us was not to email each other on this topic because such emails would be disclosable. As far as I know, the mayor was the only one who sent an email on this topic.”