Lantzville hires facilitator for staffing issues

NANAIMO – Consultants will investigate state of relations and create code of conduct.

The District of Lantzville will hire consultants to help craft a code of conduct and investigate the state of internal relations following a staff memo that highlighted concerns about council meeting decorum.

Close to 60 people packed into Lantzville’s council chambers during a special open meeting last Thursday as politicians voted to hire two separate consultants to facilitate development of an organization-wide code of conduct and probe internal relationships.

The review ties in with a memo from five of the district’s managers, who outlined concerns about decorum and tone of council meetings, including ridicule and criticism of staff’s work in public. CUPE has also requested input regarding its members and the district’s bullying and harassment policy, prompting council to include a look at the situation between management and employees in the review.

There’s clearly a problem, according to Coun. Rod Negrave, who called for a code of conduct with teeth, as well as an investigation to find out what happened and why in regards to management’s memo so it can be fixed.

“This is very similar to what I witnessed when I was back on council in 2009, same concerns about staff being mistreated,” he said. “I can’t emphasize strongly enough that we need to hire someone qualified, someone external, someone independent, figure out what the problem is, have it articulated, have it as public as possible … and vote on it to fix things. This can’t be allowed to continue.”

The special meeting was held last week in spite of management’s request to see the issue discussed behind closed doors. Mayor Colin Haime said the issue couldn’t go in camera because staff’s memo to council was distributed publicly.

Four council members sent a copy of the memo and attached letter outlining their views on the situation to residents last week. The mayor sent out his public update on the issue online with a chronology of events and information about policy and urged the public to attend the special meeting.

Councillors debated the need to follow policy the district already has and the hiring of facilitators to investigate managers’ memo. The mayor also took issue with the four councillors sending out a memo. But the majority of council agreed to move forward with the code of conduct and internal probe.

“The bottom line here, we have to recognize that we have a problem as a council,” said Coun. Graham Savage. “We should be doing better than this.”

Residents also had the chance to weigh in on the meeting and while not everyone was convinced about spending money on facilitators, they did talk about the need to resolve relations at the organization.

“In all my years of elected and appointed and community service I have never seen all members of senior staff make a public complaint and I regard that as a public complaint about their treatment by the people we elected,” said resident Marjorie Stewart, who said it’s extraordinary serious.

Mary Alyward applauded staff members for writing the memo and said she’s pleased the district has hired a human resources person to sort the issue out, adding she can’t trust existing councillors to solve this on their own.

No costs have been determined for the facilitators. There was also no discussion about hiring a new chief administrative officer. CAO Twyla Graff has handed in her resignation.