Jennifer Dickson | Sep 24, 2018
After a long career working nationally and internationally for environmental integrity, human rights, social justice and children's issues, I campaigned in 2014 and won a seat as Councillor in Tay Valley because I wanted to contribute to the local community I love. Initially, our Council functioned well as together with a committed, experienced staff we pursued initiatives to benefit Tay Valley. Recently, though, I have witnessed self-serving deceitful behaviour that I, representing the citizens of Tay Valley, cannot accept. It is this ugliness that leads me to share this letter and has in part led me to not seek re-election.
As members of Council, I believe that we have a responsibility to listen to the public’s concerns, respond and accommodate within the law, and play a role in setting the tone and culture for civic engagement. This does not mean, however, that we must or should tolerate all forms of discussion and commentary, and this is especially true with respect to staff. Not only should civility and respect underlie our interactions at all levels of municipal government, but the law reinforces these expectations as well by requiring us to maintain a workplace that is free of harassment.
It was in compliance with this legal obligation that Council retained an independent investigator to look into serious allegations of harassment made against Councillor Farrell over several months. The process was confidential, in order to protect those involved and to encourage people to come forward, but all allegations were made known to her and to her representatives and everyone involved had an opportunity to have their say. After following a lengthy (three month) fair process, the investigator determined that there had indeed been harassment of staff. Council then imposed minimal measures (a written apology and some training) to ensure that such behaviour did not happen again.
Councillor Farrell refused these measures, refused to recognize the authority of Council and also refused to recuse herself from in-camera sessions when this and the legal implications of her further negative activities were to be discussed. This was clearly inappropriate, but this is what Councillor Farrell did.
Now, leading up the election, she is misrepresenting what has happened and trying to deflect responsibility from herself onto others. She is lashing out at Township staff. She is blaming members of Council and staff for the situation she finds herself in. This twisting of facts and her campaign of personal attacks and shifting of blame is deceitful and very harmful, not only to the integrity and reputations of all those involved, but as well it is exceedingly harmful to the process of governance in general.
During my time as Councillor, I have been impressed by the integrity and professionalism of our staff. They do not deserve to be attacked, or used as an election platform. We can do better. Tay Valley deserves better. We must do better.