Councillors in a rural municipality in Manitoba voted to suspend their reeve Wednesday, after an investigation found he violated the council’s code of conduct by attending a rally protesting heightened public health restrictions last November.
Lewis Weiss, reeve of the RM of La Broquerie, was fined $1,296 when he attended a large protest against Manitoba’s partial lockdown in Steinbach on Nov. 14, 2020. Five La Broquerie councillors later filed a formal complaint with the province about Weiss’ actions.
During Wednesday’s regular meeting, council voted in favour of suspending Weiss for 45 days after an investigation found he violated the council’s code of conduct. Five councillors voted in favour of the suspension, and a sixth, Ward 1 Coun. Darrell Unger abstained from voting. Weiss could not vote.
“It was a long evening… it was a tough vote,” said Ivan Normandeau, deputy reeve of the RM of La Broquerie.
“I’m happy the council came to a decision, and I’m happy that we have hopefully put this chapter behind us.”
The council members spent about an hour in a closed session deliberating how to proceed, said Normandeau.
Because the matter involved one of their colleagues, the decision to suspend Weiss took a lot of consideration, Normandeau explained.
As a result, Weiss is stripped of his governing duties listed under the provincial Municipal Act: attending council meetings, leading council and performing “any other duty or function assigned to a head of council by the council or by this or any other Act.”
For the next 45 days, Normandeau will be the acting reeve and council will operate with only six members.
CBC News tried reaching Weiss for comment but did not receive a response before publishing.
Normandeau cannot recall a time when a reeve was suspended. The code of conduct policy only came into effect on Nov. 1, 2020, so this may be the first time in Manitoba that a reeve was suspended for violating that policy, he said.
External investigators became involved after the formal complaint was made. They issued a report, but that won’t be publicly available until it’s redacted, Normandeau said.
Weiss could go to the province and appeal the suspension, however. In that case, the report would remain private until the appeal decision is made, he added.
Normandeau hopes council, including Weiss, can move on from the ordeal and focus on governing the rural municipality, once the suspension is over.