Valerie Kirwan accuses Sudbury integrity commissioner of sexism; husband says he feels 'betrayed'

(File photo)

Valerie Kirwan and her husband Bob, councillor for Ward 5 in Greater Sudbury, have both penned angry responses to a recent report by the city's integrity commissioner.

In a report headed to city council next week, Robert Swayze ruled that Bob Kirwan violated the code of conduct by allowing his wife to post comments on the Kirwan's Valley East Facebook page using an alias, Jessie Timmons.

In at least one case, 'Timmons' defended Kirwan from criticism over his support of the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED). Other posts were attacks on people criticizing Kirwan.

In response, Swayze said Kirwan was unable to explain why his wife was using the fake name, and he offered to end the practice if the integrity commissioner withdrew his report.

"I am also satisfied that Coun. Kirwan did not personally post under the fictitious name," he wrote.

"However, he was fully aware of all his wife’s many posts since he is an administrator of his Facebook page. He should have realized that they lack transparency and give the impression that the posts are from the community."

By allowing the posts, Swayze said Kirwan "colluded with his wife to contravene section 17 of the Code ... The lack of transparency is obvious."

Swayze recommends city council formally reprimand Kirwan for the breach of the city's code of conduct.

In response, Valerie Kirwan penned a seven-page letter accusing Swayze of abusing his power and writing a sexist report. Finding her husband guilty of violating the code of conduct for her posts amounts to saying he controlled her and what she wrote.

"You are basically saying I have no right to my own thoughts and am incapable of making my own decisions unless I run it past my husband first," she wrote.

"Let me ask you this. If the genders were reversed and I was the councillor and my husband was in my position, would you be so willing to say he has no right to his own thoughts or comments? Or is it just women you have issues with for thinking for themselves?"

"Women fought hard for their rights and to have a voice. I will not be silenced by someone such as yourself or any complainant," she added.

She also recounted the challenges of maintaining the Valley East page, which she said has 18,000 members. She needed the Jessie Timmons account, Kirwan said, because some members block her other account and so she can't see what they post on the site to determine whether it conforms to the groups commenting rules.

Kirwan doesn't explain, however, why she used the Timmons account to respond to her husband's critics.

For his part, Bob Kirwan penned a letter to the integrity commissioner, saying he has never felt more betrayed than he was by Swayze and his report.

Kirwan argued the code of conduct governs his activity as a city councillor, something he said was separate from his Valley East page.

'I didn't disguise myself'

"Section 17 of the code requires a councillor to 'always identify themselves without any attempt to cover, disguise or mislead as to their identity or status as an elected representative of the city when using social media,'" he wrote.

"I didn’t disguise myself. My wife used a different identity in a second Facebook account. She cannot be held accountable to the code and I cannot be held accountable for her actions. Again, this whole idea is preposterous!"

He pointed to a 2019 report from Swayze that said the Valley East page is “not funded by the city and that it is not a municipal operation.”

"When I am functioning as an administrator of the Valley East group, I am not acting in an official capacity as a councillor," Kirwan said.

He has a second Facebook page for his councillor duties, Kirwan said. By sanctioning him for a Facebook page that is outside of his councillor duties, he said Swayze has "committed a gross miscarriage of justice with his allegations against my wife and I."

"Most importantly, he has caused my wife to suffer serious health issues as a result of the negative public reaction to his report," Kirwan said.

"I feel that the only honourable and ethical thing for Mr. Swayze to do is retract the report to council, issue a public apology to my wife, and resign from his position as integrity commissioner for the City of Greater Sudbury."

The report will be heard at city council Sept. 14.

Valerie Kirwan's full response can be found here, while Bob Kirwan's is here.