image supplied Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The City of Port Moody has a new policy to regulate disrespectful communications directed at council, staff or volunteers from the public. 

The Respectful Communications Policy was passed unanimously by council on April 11, and applies to in-person, electronic, telephonic, written, or other forms of messaging from residents.

“I think probably all council members can think of examples in the past where we had certain types of communications that probably wasn’t the best,” said city manager Tim Savoie.

“We were trying to keep the policy open enough not to be punitive, because of course, that is not the intent of the communications policy.”

Any communications that are intended to make the recipient feel bullied, humiliated or intimidated are included under the policy, as well as discriminatory, threatening, violent, or defamatory statements.

The city manager will review all complaints lodged by staff or council members, and determine whether the incident follows a pattern of frivolous, vexatious, or malicious behavior from an individual.

Considerations will also be made regarding the role of the recipient, whether the sender has a statutory right to be heard, and if the communication is related to feedback of a city program, service or initiative.

Any action by the city also judges the history of the individual sending the message, and if they have acknowledged wrongdoing or apologized for prior behaviour.

If inappropriate communications continue, the city manager has the option to issue a written warning or impose limits on how that person can communicate with staff or council.

These limits include directing staff not to respond to communications, instead directing them to the city manager.

Savoie said in extreme cases, they would be able to eject someone from a council meeting.

“Do I think we’ll need anything else? … Probably not, but it just provides council with the flexibility for the future,” Savoie said.

The policy is not intended to replace the city’s current Respectful Workplace Policy, and does not limit its ability to pursue other action under the law, such as injunctions.

Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said the policy was needed, and “a long time coming.”

“It’s not intended to silence anyone or to be misused. It is meant to write down and formalize, what most people I feel would deem as common sense and reasonable expectations,” Lurbiecki said.

 “I want residents to know, as councillors, we are expected to set the standard for respectful communication to each other and to the public.”

Council also passed its code of conduct bylaw on April 11, which was required by the province’s community charter.

By Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 05, 2023 at 16:08

This item reprinted with permission from   Tri-Cities Dispatch   Coquitlam, British Columbia

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