Cambridge councillors advised to be better listeners

By  | August 8, 2019 | 1 Comment | Filed under: Politics

Integrity commissioner says council members need to be more respectful of their constituents and colleagues

(FUNNY ENOUGH.. NO MENTION OF DONNA REED CALLING US MALCONTENTS)..

News Aug 07, 2019 by Paige Desmond Waterloo Region Record

Cambridge’s integrity commissioner says city councillors are well-advised to become better listeners and avoid characterizing the actions or statements of their colleagues or constituents. – Lisa Rutledge , Torstar file photo

CAMBRIDGE — Cambridge councillors would be wise to work on their listening skills and stop commenting on the actions of residents and other councillors.

That is the advice of the city’s integrity commissioner.

In a report received by council on Tuesday, Richard Russell from Agree Inc. said councillors should use him as a resource for advice and become better listeners. Russell serves as the city’s commissioner but was not available for comment.

“I would encourage council members to be and become better listeners,” he said in the report. “This aspect of communication is key when dealing with constituents who bring forward concerns.

“It is also helpful if members avoid characterizing the actions or statements of their colleagues or constituents. These characterizations are the source of considerable offence-taking and work for the integrity commissioner.”

For a few years Cambridge council has struggled with councillor complaints about each other, staff complaints about council and resident complaints about politicians.

Mayor Kathryn McGarry said she’s hopeful that is coming to an end.

“I am hoping that with the integrity commissioner’s services that council will utilize that more often and hopefully get to the point where communication is such that the integrity commissioner isn’t used so much,” she said.

McGarry said council takes the integrity commissioner and the complaints seriously.

In 2016, Coun. Frank Monteiro was the subject of a citizen complaint because of comments Monteiro made on a radio show.

Council chose to dismiss the integrity commissioner’s report, which found that Monteiro had been discourteous to a fellow councillor. There was no penalty to Monteiro.

Monteiro said he tried to mediate with the complainant but those efforts went nowhere.

Now he said he sometimes holds back in discussions because he’s worried his comments will be misconstrued.

“I’m getting to a point that I’m afraid to say some things because some people may interpret it a different way. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth, they’d rather have it sugar-coated.”

He said people get misinformation from unofficial city sources, like social media, and that can lead to misunderstandings and frivolous complaints.

Since July of last year the integrity commissioner has billed Cambridge $14,107.56 for one investigation.

It was a complaint about Coun. Jan Liggett after she submitted an allegedly harsh job evaluation about a city administrative assistant. In May the commissioner found Liggett guilty of retaliation and in violation of the code of conduct.

The same staffer had filed a code of conduct complaint against Liggett two years ago.

Liggett slammed the ruling and said she wasn’t given the chance to argue her full case. Liggett also said words were attributed to her that she did not say.

The second complaint was brought in May and is currently under investigation so costs aren’t available. It involves a citizen complaining about statements or actions of a council member.

In his report, Russell said complaints are down in part because the city’s code of conduct doesn’t allow complaints to be filed or investigated during a municipal election campaign, with the most recent election being in the fall of 2018.

In 2017, Liggett made a complaint about Doug Craig, who was mayor at the time.

The dispute was eventually settled by mediation with the commissioner.

Between 2016, when the code of conduct for council was implemented, and December 2017, six complaints went before the city’s integrity commissioner. Four went through full investigations and reports, and two were deemed frivolous.

Between Mar. 15, 2017 and July 31, 2018, the city paid its integrity commissioner’s office nearly $51,000 to deal with five complaints. Two were resolved at the initial review stage.

pdesmond@therecord.com

Twitter: @DesmondRecord

pdesmond@therecord.com

https://www.cambridgetimes.ca/news-story/9539072-cambridge-councillors-advised-to-be-better-listeners/

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One Response to Cambridge councillors advised to be better listeners

  1. lvann@sympatico.ca'
    Rick Muise August 13, 2019 at 9:32 am

    When council keeps contradicting itself on issues like tax dollars being spent you stop listening. Reid said two months ago they have to watch the pennies they spend. Now she wants to dump a stupid crosswalk onto the over taxed people here in Cambridge. 15 grand plus. It will be a distraction and have to be watched for vandalism at added costs along with future maintenance. Talk from both sides of the mouth and this is what we are known for across our Province.

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