Regarding the Agenda of March 18, 2014, Craig Gammie 4-7

Agenda Item 8.5 PW3-2014 Hepworth Community Centre

Tom Gray seems to be recommending that we sell the Hepworth Community centre. But he does not provide council and the public enough information to make a good decision. He has failed to provide any information on how many use it, who uses it, what for, and what revenues are taken in. Council should defer a decision, and should send the report back to be fixed. The MPW should also predict revenues with alternative fee structures, and also should also consider closing other community centers instead. Maybe the highest net costs center should be closed.

Agenda Item 8.8 ADM15-2014 Workplace Violence & Harassment: Enhanced Security Measures

The staff report recommends $10,000 be spent for office modifications to protect staff from “difficult customers”.

It all sounds reasonable if there really is a problem or potential problem. But is there a problem?

Several residents who criticised staff got letters from John Close and Rhonda Cook in 2011 which began with these words:

“If we are made aware of any further slanderous, rude or negative behaviour on your part, [there will be consequences].”

Many other threats were sent out in 2012 and 2013.

If you criticise, or display what they consider negative behaviour, they will sue you, or try to get you charged, or ban you, or prohibit you from speaking to staff, or censor your submissions, or punish you somehow.

John Close has claimed in a press release that any “unwanted comment” is “workplace harassment”, and based on his definition, any criticism of staff gets a cry of “harassment, harassment.” Because of this there have been many allegations of “workplace harassment” levelled at residents.

And if you mention even a former staff member’s name in a letter to council, it will be censored out.

In every case I know of there was no evidence of improper behaviour, or rude behaviour, or harassment, or defamation, or anything else, other than criticism (which is almost always “unwanted”).

It’s got so bad that all you have to do is say a staff members name and you are accused of workplace harassment. Even some council members get accused of harassment if they dare to criticize a staff member. It has become absolutely ludicrous.

And now they want $10,000 of taxpayers’ money to protect themselves from those very, very bad “difficult customers” who dare to criticize.

Given the false allegations going around, please forgive me if I take a vague report from staff of “a history of dealing with difficult customers at the Town Hall” with a good measure  of skepticism.

The current TSBP harassment policy requires that senior staff follow-up on all complaints of harassment or violence and requires that a report for each incident be written.

The Administrator should be instructed to review all of those harassment and violence complaint reports and determine if there is indeed a problem or real potential problem, and if so then propose corrective and preventive measures. But until then, the request for $10,000 should be denied.

A second recommendation in the report is:

And further that Staff prepare reports for Council’s consideration of by-laws enacting policies dealing with a public code of conduct and video surveillance applicable at all Town facilities.

We do need rules for town facilities. But the rule must be made for real problems, and must not be made just as another tool to stop people from legitimate participation or to stop residents from criticizing.

I am concerned that any resident who comes into the town hall office and is the least bit critical will be accused of “workplace harassment” and will be banned from town hall, for life, and will be prohibited from corresponding with staff. Or if a resident is really critical, he or she will be turned over to the authorities who administer the Gulag.

We already have a ridiculous and draconian public code of conduct for council and committee meetings, a code that is designed mostly to shut out criticism. The one for all facilities should be done properly and should be made only for legitimate and proper purpose. We will have to make sure the by-law cannot be abused so as to punish someone that some staff member just happens not to like. We will have to scrutinize the draft code very carefully.

Administrator Farrow-Lawrence’s report further indicates the following:

“The foregoing security measures will not impede Staff from offering the same high level of customer service and welcoming atmosphere to members of the public.”

Farrow-Lawrence gets 4 stars for her good sense of humour.

Agenda Item 8.8 ADM14-2014 Stop-the-Drop Initiative

According to the staff report, some mayors and Administrators met with Colin Dobell March 7, where they heard Mr. Dobell’s recommendation of a $75,000 research project to be funded by “participating municipalities”.

Farrow-Lawrence is not recommending that we participate. I agree. But council should make it even more clear to Mr. Dobell. Council should be clear that the town will not participate in any way. Not financial, not staff participation, not anything else. Because Great Lakes Water level is not a TSBP issue.

Dobell is also asking the mayors to represent the residents in discussions with federal or provincial governments on the water level issue. This too should be denied. The mayor has no legitimate mandate to represent the residents of TSBP on a federal-provincial issue. We have an MP and an MPP who have that role.

Craig

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