Sackville Town Clerk Donna Beal has clarified how complaints will be handled under the new Code of Conduct that governs members of council.
In an e-mail to Warktimes, Beal explains that council, not town staff, will handle complaints.
“Complaints under the Code of Conduct are to be addressed to the Mayor, and if the complaint is against the Mayor, they are addressed to the Deputy Mayor – not staff,” Beal writes.
“Any reported violations of the code are subject to an investigation by Council,” she adds.
The clerk also writes that council may retain an external investigator or seek legal advice depending on the circumstances of individual complaints.
Beal was responding to a series of questions from Warktimes about how the code will operate.
Experts have criticized some of its provisions for restricting or discouraging free speech in sections that govern communications including e-mails and text messages as well as posts on social media platforms such as Facebook.
“No Member shall use social media to publish anything that is dishonest, untrue, unsubstantiated, offensive, disrespectful, constitutes harassment, is defamatory or misleading in any way,” the Sackville Code says in language that is identical to the wording in Moncton’s Code of Conduct.
Critics say words such as “dishonest,” “offensive,” “disrespectful” and “misleading” are vague and open to wide interpretation.
Meantime, the Saint John Code avoids such terms when it says that members of council “shall use communication tools, such as newsletters, websites and social media in a responsible and respectful manner” adding that “members of council shall not engage in or encourage bullying, flaming or shaming of any other social media users.”
The Saint John Code warns against “attacking individuals rather than engaging in constructive discussion or debate.”
Under a provincial regulation passed in 2018, municipalities are required to enact Code of Conduct bylaws that include provisions governing “the use of communication tools and social media by members of council,” but the details are left up to each municipality.
The Woodstock Code of Conduct bylaw barely mentions communication tools or social media:
Members must keep in mind they are always a representative of the Town of Woodstock, including when engaging in social media activities, and Members are encouraged to identify when views expressed are theirs alone and not official Town of Woodstock communication.
electronic communication devices, including but not limited to desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, which are supplied by the Municipality to a Member, may be used by the Member for personal use, provided that the use is not for personal gain, offensive or inappropriate.