‘Safe workplace’: Brockville votes to release statement discouraging harassment of staff on social media

A new statement has appeared on the City of Brockville website discouraging members of the public from attacking city staff on social media.

“Members of city staff have asked council to consider making a statement about the fact they are encountering bullying and harassment via social media,” Mayor Matt Wren explained to Brockvilleist. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that is not what the proposed statement is about.”

Wren noted that “our municipality and all municipalities raise flags and make proclamations to raise awareness in the community of the importance of tolerance and civility towards many different groups and organizations. We do so as we are community leaders and believe we have a responsibility to lead by example.”

In a Facebook post prior to the April 22 meeting where the proposal was voted on, Councillor Cameron Wales noted that the statement is “about maintaining a workplace free of harassment for staff.”

“If there is an issue with city services or policy decisions that haven’t been addressed to your satisfaction at the staff level, the appropriate place to direct criticism is to elected officials.”

Brockvilleist previously reported on council’s Feb. 20 meeting, where the idea of drafting a negative social media use statement for the City of Brockville website was introduced. 

On the busy consent agenda for yesterday’s meeting were fourteen items, including the social media statement. Council was asked to pass the motion that would see the final statement uploaded to the city’s website. Although Councillor Earle voted no to the consent agenda, all other councillors passed the fourteen items forward. 

Councillor Wales spoke with Brockvilleist to elaborate on why this issue is so important for both civilians and city staff alike.

“The reason this statement is necessary is because council, as the group that sets directions for the city as an organization, has to protect our staff. We have a duty to make sure our staff have a safe workplace. The statement is an attempt to set the conditions for that.”

Wales explained that it articulates how people have a right to disagree with council, or feel like staff aren’t doing a good enough job, but “in either case, the way to solve that is to call a city councillor or the mayor and talk to them, not take it out on staff.”

Wales explains, “Sometimes when people are frustrated, they don’t express their opinions in a healthy way and that can have consequences that they may not intend.” 

Councillor Wales hopes to remind the public that elected officials and city staff are also members of the community and deserve to be treated with respect. He shared, “We’re all working towards the good of the community and we’re just calling for respect in conversations and debate about how to make that happen. I don’t think there’s many people in Brockville who don’t want the best for the community.”

Wren added that “Our municipality and all municipalities raise flags and make proclamations to raise awareness in the community of the importance of tolerance and civility towards many different groups and organizations. We do so as we are community leaders and believe we have a responsibility to lead by example.”

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