White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin has confirmed that five residents he no longer wants to receive emails from were intentionally blocked from his inbox last weekend, because their messages were amounting to what he describes as “cyber abuse.”
However, the mayor said the result of his request for the city’s IT manager to adjust his email – the five being blocked from messaging anyone on the city’s email server – was not his intent.
“Absolutely not, that would be stupid,” Baldwin told Peace Arch News Wednesday. “I wouldn’t do that, I don’t have the authority. That would take a council motion.
“They would be blocked from my account, I thought, and not from anyone else’s.”
PAN was contacted by four residents last weekend, after their emails sent Sunday and Monday to members of council and city staff bounced back with ‘failed-delivery’ notifications.
City manager Dan Bottrill confirmed Wednesday that at the mayor’s request, White Rock’s IT manager had been instructed to have emails from five residents to the mayor transferred without notification directly into the junk folder.
Instead, council critics Dennis Lypka, Garry Wolgemuth, Roderick Louis and Ross Buchanan all reported receiving the auto-replies. At that time, Louis described the apparent blocking as “infantile” and “characteristic of practices one would expect to find in the Korean Peninsula – north part – not the Semiahmoo Peninsula.”
When asked by PAN Monday if he was aware of the issue and who made the decision, Baldwin replied by email only that he understood the problem had been resolved.
Wednesday, the mayor confirmed he had made the request last Friday night to have the five people – the fifth was White Rock resident Erika Johanson, he said – blocked, after receiving an email from one criticizing the city’s response to the May 15 fire at Five Corners.
Baldwin said while he was “very proud” of the city’s handling of the emergency, the sender was not.
“It just said that the efforts that the staff put in were all for naught, and you guys did a terrible job,” Baldwin said.
“I just said, enough is enough, I don’t need to have this stuff coming into me. It’s not helpful.
“Critics are fine, and I’ve got plenty of those, obviously. But when you use someone else’s misfortune to further your cause, that to me is just wrong.”
He noted that some comments from the five since the 2014 election have been acceptable feedback, “but then it also gets derogatory, negative and what amounts to cyber abuse.”
He added that three other members of council – Couns. Helen Fathers, Megan Knight and David Chesney – have all taken the step to block certain people from their emails, and “I thought, I’m going to do the same thing now.”
Baldwin said he didn’t expect his request to be acted on over the long weekend, and said the IT manager “went a little bit above and beyond” when the five were blocked from all city accounts.
The critics’ reaction to the mistake, he said, “was a little bit overboard,” and he was surprised to see the issue reported on the front page of PAN Wednesday.
“Nonetheless, it was wrong. We made a mistake and it’s been corrected. Their emails are being received.”
All councillors had said they were surprised to learn that emails to them were not being received, and that decisions to filter emails should be up to the individual.
Wednesday, Wolgemuth said he is not convinced that the blanket block from the server was an error.
“This is just a flagrant and egregious act, I have no words to describe it,” he said via email.
Fathers said she also has concerns. She said when she requested IT block an email address from her account – “because the emails were really abusive” – she was told she would have to do it herself, leading her to divert the sender to her junk-mail folder.
“I don’t see how the mayor can ask (for blocking) to happen on his own personal account, and it all of a sudden be everybody’s,” she said. “It just seemed a little bit fishy to me.”
Fathers – who noted she consulted police on the matter Wednesday afternoon – said she is also concerned that the city’s IT manager is being “made to take the fall” for what transpired.
She said she plans to raise her concerns at Monday’s council meeting.
While Baldwin said no emails are being diverted from his inbox now, he is still considering the step.
“I really don’t want to receive any more emails from (the five),” he said. “If they have a question to ask, there certainly are channels.
“We are elected to office, yes, but that doesn’t say, here we are, take a shot at us. We’re not open to abuse.”