Qualicum Beach Coun. Scott Harrison this week brought to council’s attention a comment from a resident, criticizing the way a senior staff member was treated at its meeting on March 17.
The resident, John Wood, said some councillors were “rude, disrespectful and disappointing.”
The staff member Wood was referring to was CAO David Sailland, who at the March 17 meeting, gave his input on the backyard chicken pilot project in which he participated. Coun. Robert Filmer appreciated Sailland’s comments but called it inappropriate, as other participants in the project did not get the same privilege.
“I think when we start looking at things like this, whether you’re a high town official CAO or elected official we all play by the same rules and regulations,” Filmer said at the time.
Harrison echoed Woods’s letter in council on April 7, as he was disappointed with what was said at the last meeting.
“The way senior staff was being treated is in my view not how we should be conducting ourselves as a council,” said Harrison. “If you have serious concerns, by all means raise them with staff. But a public council meeting is not where you sort of raise things for the first time. So I just hope that moving forward we try to avoid that sort of tone and that sort of conversation when we’re discussing things with staff.”
Harrison also pointed out the town has an existing policy that allows staff to participate in a debate.
“To try to create an atmosphere through some of the comments where staff feel reluctant to participate actually then impoverishes council’s decision-making capabilities,” said Harrison.
Filmer agreed Sailland can take part in council debate but should not have provided personal input. He didn’t feel his criticism was rude and disrespectful.
“If our CAO at that time point was going to provide information that’s different,” Filmer argued. “It was not providing information as you (Harrison) said it was entering debate. And when you’re entering debate you are now on different grounds than simply providing information. And that’s exactly what I did is I wanted to correct what was being said in debate. And I made my stance clear. I debated against the point that the staff member had brought forward.”
“I just want to highlight that we should be very careful with the language that we use in debate,” said Harrison. “To say that there should be a debate to disagree with staff opinion, absolutely. You’re totally free to do that Coun. Filmer. But the language you used was not in my view in accordance with standards of decorum that we ought to have and in accordance with our procedure bylaw which lays out standards of debate.”
Coun. Teunis Westbroek agreed with Filmer and considered his statement to be appropriate. He said respect goes both ways.