White Rock city councillors (left to right) Grant Meyer

White Rock councillors dispute ‘unhappy city hall’ claim

Social media activity in wake of firestorm about controversial comments defended by elected officials.

Two White Rock councillors are taking issue with claims made by a third that city hall is a “hostile” environment.

Couns. Grant Meyer and Lynne Sinclair responded with incredulity this week to comments made by Coun. Helen Fathers in recent Peace Arch News articles, describing city hall as an “unpleasant” environment to work in and stating that city employees were “dreadfully unhappy.”

“I’m quite surprised to read that there’s hostility, and I think one has to question who’s creating hostility,” Sinclair told PAN Tuesday.

“The things I’m reading about, without ever having had a phone call from Coun. Fathers, are surprising to say the least.

“I’m not aware of any hostility on council, I think we work very well as a team.”

Meyer said he is unaware of any problems among city employees, and that he felt Fathers’ descriptions were not accurate.

“For me, it’s fine,” he said. “I’m not going to speak on behalf of staff. I’m kind of surprised that quote would go in there without something backing it up. It’s hearsay, really.”

Fathers first alluded to what she said was “not a friendly environment” after she tabled a motion at the April 27 council meeting for staff to create a ‘whistleblower policy’ as a means of protecting staff and members of council.

“I think the environment we’re in right now is a hostile environment,” Fathers said at the time.

She reiterated those sentiments earlier this week, after disputing a statement made by Mayor Wayne Baldwin that Coun. David Chesney published privileged information on his website.

Fathers also confirmed this week that she had secured personal legal counsel following “circumstances that arose” after she was the lone councillor to vote against the deputy-mayor rotation list on April 13.

In emphasizing her point about the divide among council, she pointed to social-media activity by Sinclair and Meyer as news reports of Chesney commenting on maternity wear began to spread last week.

The reports centred on an April 6 online interview in which Chesney said that tight clothing on pregnant women looks like “sausage casing” and that expectant mothers want to delay maternity leave “until their water breaks,” setting off a firestorm of criticism. He later apologized for “insensitive” remarks.

Meyer and Sinclair each called PAN Tuesday afternoon to defend the posts on their respective Twitter feeds, insisting they were meant to get the message out that the rest of council did not agree with Chesney’s views, not to perpetuate hostility.

“Some antiquated views that are not shared by all of White Rock city council. Probably not by our community, either,” Meyer tweeted April 30, in response to posts from other users.

Among the posts retweeted by Sinclair were links to CBC and Global News coverage of the issue. Both Sinclair and Meyer retweeted a picture of CKNW radio host Michael Eckford posing with his stomach sticking out and the caption, “Phew. I feel like a sausage casing today!”

They also both retweeted one post that said, “Why is he commenting on clothing? It has nothing to do with his job as a councillor. Stick to your community issues.”

Another post retweeted by Sinclair read, “Coun. David Chesney shld learn 2 shut up. Appalling. He shld resign over this.”

When asked if retweeting that particular post could be interpreted as spreading negativity, Sinclair said it was “relevant commentary. It was in the news already.”

Regarding the state of affairs on council, Sinclair said any differing opinions that are expressed should not be taken personally.

“We do a lot of good work together,” she said. “We don’t always agree with each other, and it certainly isn’t always one side or one group voting one way and another group voting another way, we often vote different ways. And that’s the way it should be.”

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