Tay council wants to protect staff from public harassment

·3 min read

Tay might be jumping onto the code of conduct for the public bandwagon.

The matter was brought forward by Coun. Sandy Talbot at a recent council committee meeting.

"It’s generated a lot of thought in other municipalities as to when the public communicates with the township and staff," she said, referring to articles published in MidlandToday about the Township of Oro-Medonte passing a code of conduct for residents when dealing with council and staff.

"We need to ensure our staff are in a safe environment where the public isn’t emailing them and harassing them on the street. It also deals with harassment, disrespectful, intimidating behaviour, defamatory comments, be it electronic, written or verbal communication.

"I just think it’s something that we can be proactive about," said Talbot. "We can piggyback on this. This is something that is valid. We have a duty to our staff and council."

Mayor Ted Walker said he hadn't seen the Oro-Medonte policy but in speaking with representatives, it seems to have had the results the peer township was seeking.

"I’m not so much worried about council, but I am about staff," he said. "We have a legal responsibility to protect our staff with respect to harassment."

Walker said board volunteers should also be rolled into the policy.

"You know the recent situation where we had two new members of the library board come on and they were subjected to the following email: 'considering recent appointments to the board, it appears their only job is to cut funding, slash and burn service, and ruin the day,'" he said.

"I don’t think our volunteers should be subjected to that type of harassment, which could be on the slanderous side. I think this council and municipality has to stand up and protect our volunteers from this type of thing. It was absolutely disgusted and there was no need for that type of thing, especially as it relates to volunteers."

Coun. Mary Warnock had come concerns about coming up with such a code of conduct.

"My only fear in some of it is that I really don’t want lines of communications between the public and us to be stifled in any way," she said, "and for us to decide if something is offside or not. I’m all about respect on both sides and protecting staff and volunteers. The public must know there has to be respect on all sides."

Lindsay Barron, chief administrative officer, alluded to the current customer service policy the township has in place.

"It has been in effect for a number of years so it probably needs a review," she said. "The purpose of that policy was to ensure timely, professional courteous and consistent responses from staff. It also has clauses in respect to what is acceptable communications for staff."

Walker said that would be a good idea.

"What happened to those volunteers is not going to happen again as long as I’m here," he said. "And if it does happen, then I think we as a municipality have the onus to take whatever legal action we can."

The matter will be brought back to council at a later date.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com