New rules have been crafted laying out how a bullying – and at this point, hypothetical – Abbotsford councillor can be booted from a meeting.
Council gave the thumbs up Monday to a new bylaw that formalizes the process for tossing a councillor acting inappropriately in a meeting. The bylaw also includes new rules regulating how frequently delegations can appear, and how the city will remove a person who has been told to leave but won’t.
Council meetings – particularly since the 2015 election – have been mostly staid affairs, with disagreement rare and clashes between members almost non-existent. But that lack of strife, Mayor Henry Braun said, makes this the perfect time to craft and implement the new rules.
“A lot of these issues we might not have experienced in Abbotsford, but you do see them in other municipalities,” Braun said.
Coun. Sandy Blue highlighted the rules governing decorum among councillors.
“You might not think about it when a council is working effectively, but you certainly notice it when it’s not.”
The rules say council members must not bully or harass other councillors, government officials or staff members. The bylaw defines such activity as including, but not being limited to: expressing negative opinions about the personality or character of someone; speaking disrespectfully, speaking or acting aggressively toward another person; using offensive gestures or signs; being rude; questioning the motives of others; or speaking on cellphones when another person is speaking, except in emergencies.
If a meeting chair finds someone breached the rules, the person can either be ordered to leave immediately, or permitted to apologize. An inadequate apology can result in the person still being removed from the meeting.
If someone who has been ordered to leave, doesn’t of their free will, the bylaw says council can call in a peace officer.
On delegations, the new bylaw says individuals or organizations can only address council once a year on a specific topic, or once every three months on different topics. The mayor can also refuse delegations that wish to speak about matter already being addressed at a public hearing, or if the matter relates to labour relations and employees, litigation, is outside the city’s authority, or is about information that can’t be released or is related to a freedom of information request. The mayor can also determine a matter to be frivolous.
A delegation can also be refused if the matter relates to compliance with city bylaws, is the subject of a future staff report, is an election matter, or relates to a tendered contract or an ongoing request for proposals.