Policy document now a bylaw that is very restrictive was passed without a word from Staff explaining need for a change

By Pepper Parr

July 14th, 2023



Friday is usually the day the governments issue the bad news. They are particular good at it on long weekend holidays.

Today, the Gazette wants to share with you, the bad news that got dumped on you by your city council earlier in the week.

It started with an inflammatory statement put out by the Mayor as her idea of a justification for a Policy document reports. She stated that people elected to public office and staff were not “punching bags”.

Council passed Public Conduct Policy and Trespass Bylaw without and public presentation by which we mean no one spoke to Council on what the policy means and why it has been put in place. All the public learned was that while the report came from the Office of the City Clerk, the work was done by a Staff member in the legal department.

It gets worse. Other than the Mayor and Councillor Nisan, who made a comments the public didn’t hear a word from the people you elected tooffice

What’s the big deal you might ask. Some people do treat city hall staff in a manner that is not acceptable. People get angry when they don’t like the way they feel they have been treated.

There are occasions when a persons behaviour is not acceptable. On the left, former Mayor Rick Goldring, on the right, stood mute as a citizen berated him.  On the right; a parent trying to make a point with a School Board Superintendent.

Those situations can be handled.

The policy document is 13 pages long. The average person is not going to spend the time to read a complex document of that length. However, its application applies to everyone.

This policy applies to:
(a) all persons in attendance on or at any and all City of Burlington properties, facilities, or programs, including any City of Burlington transit vehicles; and

(b) all persons interacting with City of Burlington staff, volunteers, Members of Council, or members of the public in any manner, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following:
(i) public meetings;
(ii) written communications;
(iii) telephone communications;
(iv) in-person communications;
(v) electronic communications, including e-mail, text message, and social media;
(vi) at City owned property, parks, and facilities; and/or
(vii) at non-City owned property, when interacting with City staff.

Set out below are two examples that we hope will make the point as to how dangerous the bylaw is.

We know a citizen who is particularly good at ferreting information out of city hall Staff members. She is widely known; she has made significant contributions to the development of citizen participation.

She would call someone in the Planning department and get what she believes is part of the story; then she will call another department and, based on what she is has learned, ask additional questions. She usually comes away with the understanding she was looking for. Sometimes she shares what she has learned, other time – she doesn’t.

With the follow in the by law:

Definition and Examples of Misconduct
The term “misconduct” as utilized in this policy applies to a range of inappropriate behaviour from disruptive conduct, such as frequent unreasonable demands or requests by a customer …”

Conduct that is designed to embarrass or annoy the recipient, or is part of a pattern of conduct by an individual that amounts to an abuse of a City process or service;
All too frequently city hall is less than forth coming with details on issues reasonable, informed people question.

The Policy document provides the following
Examples of what might be considered misconduct are shown below. The list is not exhaustive, nor does one single feature on its own necessarily imply that the behaviour constitutes misconduct when all of the facts and surrounding context are considered. Examples of possible misconduct include:

• making excessive demands on the time and resources of staff with lengthy phone calls, emails to numerous staff, or detailed letters every few days, and expecting immediate responses;
Another part of the policy that concerns the Gazette

• covertly recording meetings and conversations;

• photographing, filming or recording patrons, volunteers or staff without their express written consent or knowledge or without the permission of City staff;

These photographs were captured by the Gazette from council meetings.

From the left: Councillors Sharman, Nisan and Kearns.

The Gazette monitors most of the Council and Standing Committee meetings. These are public meetings.

When reporting on those meeting we use capture images from the public meeting which we include in the articles we publish.  CHCH has in the past shown up at a council meeting and records parts of a Council meeting for broadcast.

The policy is so restrictive and is not supported by anything in the way of facts and data.

Anne Marsden delegating at City Council

In a delegation made by Anne Marsden, an individual who has been restricted in her attendance at city hall for a period of one year fully understands what this policy means. In her delegation she said:

“These comments from our Mayor are improper without statistical back up and should not be acceptable to any member of our council voting to adopt this by-law without such statistical back up.

“Why the rush for this by-law. A rush that sees no staff presentation from the “lawyer” who took on the responsibility of producing such without any public engagement to explain why it is needed. We do not see any listing of incidents where the issuing of a trespass letter was necessary, and we all know the city like any other property owner has the ability to issue trespass letters with or without this by-law, whether they are deserved or not.

“How many incidents have there been since the Recreation Department Corporate Policy this by-law replaces and has been waiting for review since December 2020 for such to protect Recreation Staff, public and volunteers from those who are deemed to display offensive behaviour in our community recreation programmes.?

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