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Anger boils over as Stratford City Council meeting is cancelled early

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Tuesday night’s city council meeting in Stratford ended before it even got started – all because of one person in attendance who was banned from meetings for three months.

That would be Mike Sullivan.

“It’s bizarre,” he told CTV News on Wednesday. “This whole action last night was completely bizarre and unexpected.”

The city banned Sullivan, and a second person, after a public meeting in February.

“We’ve engaged a lawyer who has looked at all of this stuff and said they don’t have the legal right to ban people from exercising their democratic right to speak in a council chamber,” Sullivan said. “As a result of [the lawyer’s] advice, we have decided we’re just going to ignore the ban.”

Mike Sullivan at the Stratford city council meeting on May 28, 2024. (Jeff Pickel/CTV Kitchener)

He and some of his supporters returned to council chambers on Tuesday night.

After a 15 minute delay, Mayor Martin Ritsma went over to speak with Sullivan.

“He said: ‘Well, I would ask you to leave.’ And I said: ‘No, I don’t want to leave. I want to speak here at council today,’” Sullivan recounted.

Mayor Martin Ritsma speaks with Mike Sullivan at the Stratford city council meeting on May 28, 2024. (Jeff Pickel/CTV Kitchener)

Ritsma then addressed the packed room.

“I will not be calling the meeting to order,” he said. “We are going to postpone the meeting until further notice.”

Attendees weren’t happy with that decision.

People shouted “cowards” and “hypocrites”, while others booed as the mayor and councillors left the room.

According to Ritsma, the decision to shut the meeting down was based on city policies and not a personal decision.

“My position as mayor doesn’t allow me to usurp process,” he told CTV News. “I need to be respectful of that.”

Many of the people at the meeting were there to weigh in on a proposed development at the former Krug factory site.

“I feel very frustrated, this is our city council, these are the people that we’ve elected,” said one attendee.

Stratford Mayor Martin Ritsma announces the early adjournment of the May 28, 2024 council meeting.

Ritsma apologized to those who wanted to speak to council about the project. He also promised it would be addressed again at a future council meeting.

“It is the most valuable part of what I do as lead of council – provide an opportunity for our residents, for staff to present, to the agent or developer to present,” he explained. “But most importantly, for our residents, to hear and have an opportunity to voice their thoughts.”

Sullivan and his supporters say they want to address the lack of transparency at city hall.

“I know they didn’t like hearing that,” Sullivan said. “So that’s why I’m a pariah, because I keep poking at their illegalities.”

One person told CTV News that he’s been at every city council meeting for the last 30 years and he’s never seen anything like what happened Tuesday night.

The city has not yet announced when the council meeting will be rescheduled.

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