Skip to content

'A vote to this policy is a vote to silence the citizens'

Centre Wellington council looks at public interaction policy
20210512cw2
Township of Centre Wellington administration building. Keegan Kozolanka/EloraFergusToday file photo

A proposed policy about respectful interactions and frivolous, vexatious, and unreasonable complaints didn’t sit well with Centre Wellington council and members of the public at Monday’s meeting. 

Both parties felt targeted by the proposed policy. 

In the report, Rashid Hasan, manager of human resources, explained to council the experiences of some staff members of Centre Wellington to a few inquiries that are consistently raised by the same members of the public. 

Although a response is provided by staff, and the concern is considered addressed multiple times, it's continuously raised by the same members of the public, costing the staff from serving the majority of the citizens with legitimate inquiries, staff time, and continuous stress and frustrations, Hasan said.

Beverly Cairns, an Elora resident and vice-chair of the Elora Arts Council, spoke as a delegate during the meeting and informed the council about a letter she received from CAO Andrew Goldie back in 2014 with a closing statement that states: 

“PLEASE NOTE WE WILL NOT BE ABSORBED IN AN ONGOING BACK AND FORTH OF EMAIL RESPONSES TO YOU BEYOND THIS LETTER. THE TOWNSHIP CANNOT CONTINUE TO SPEND SIGNIFICANT STAFF RESOURCES ACKNOWLEDGING, REVIEWING, AND RESPONDING TO YOUR INQUIRIES, EMAILS, LETTERS, ETC.”

Cairns submitted questions to the CAO regarding the Community Investment Program in 2014, and received the letter containing the closing statement as aforementioned. 

She found the closing statement "unacceptable and undemocratic."

“There has been a culture in this community of inaccessibility of TCW Staff, especially Brett Salmon whose interaction with the public is totally opaque. I speak from experience,” said Cairns. 

“Divergent opinions need to be received; as well as insights which may give us reason to check actions on a forward path need to be contemplated and assessed.”

In the report, Hasan notes that to eradicate such badgering behavior of a very small minority of members of the public that has been ongoing toward council and staff, Respectful Workplace and Discrimination and Harassment policy work, education and creating safety for all of the elected officials and staff should be considered a priority.

“We have a duty to provide a healthy and safe workplace for our staff,” said Hasan. 

“Interactions have to be respectful in any way. Disrespect is not tolerated in any workplace, so it shouldn’t be tolerated at Centre Wellington too. Respect creates trust, and lack of it has an opposite effect on any interaction between individuals or groups.”

Hasan notes that the council needs to address the mental wellness and health of the staff, as well as investigate the Diversity and Inclusivity stance of the Township. 

Some councillors such as Coun. Bob Foster disagreed with the policy, noting that “a vote to this policy is a vote to silence the citizens and a vote to squelch, rather than encourage debate.” 

Meanwhile, Coun. Stephen Kitras found that the policy should be split in half and voted separately. 

“These are incomplete. For me, the frivolous, vexatious, and unreasonable complaint policy is far too limited,” said Kitras. 

“To have a customer service policy and public engagement policy that could be included to balance the negativity of this. This is all focused on largely one sided; it’s not balanced and doesn’t include the public to it.”

Council voted in favour of referring the policies back to staff for more work and public engagement on the issues.

Linton and Dunsmore voted against the motion but the rest of council was in favour