Martin De Ruyter / Stuff
Eight of 10 alleged violations of the council’s code of conduct have been confirmed against Councilwoman Rachel Sanson, but she says that if mediation had taken place when she requested it, “a lot of time, money and heartache would have could be saved”.
A code of conduct complaint against a Nelson councilor by her chief executive has been upheld but she has now gone to the Human Rights Commission with her ‘ill-treatment’ concerns.
Nelson City Council Chief Executive Pat Dougherty filed a code of conduct complaint against Councilor Rachel Sanson on behalf of council staff for more than 10 incidents on social media and at public council meetings. 2020 to 2021.
Dougherty said that in all 10 incidents, Sanson breached standards of conduct for not publicly criticizing council staff and for maintaining relationships with councilors and staff in a way that maintained public opinion of the council. and which focused on problems rather than people.
Bruce Robertson was appointed as the independent investigator for the complaint and his report, released on Monday, confirmed eight of the 10 incidents as breaches of the code of conduct, which were “serious enough” to “bring [the] discredit counsel”, and that they “reflect a recurring tendency to criticize staff”.
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“It is clear to me that [Sanson] Is passionate about the issues she wants to advance as an elected official… Her objectives and her commitment do not raise questions regarding the code of conduct. Rather, the events described … highlight conduct issues in his attempt to achieve his goals,” he said in his report.
“It is appropriate for an elected member to pose questions to staff at board meetings, but questions should avoid language that calls into question the transparency and honesty of staff in reference to the work presented to [the] Advice.
“Councillor Sanson has done it several times.”
The majority of the violations were related to Sanson’s questions about the council’s forestry activities and financial reporting, which she openly spoke out against.
Robertson said in his report that he originally recommended mediation as his preferred course of action, but it was only available for advisor-to-advisor disputes, not advisor-to-staff disputes.
“My preference would be to recommend action designed to help Councilor Sanson overcome this complaint, develop effective approaches that would avoid breaching the code, and repair her relationship with [the] Council,” he said.
Instead, he recommended a letter of reprimand for Counselor Sanson that included an outline of future steps if the behavior continued and an offer of support for her to consider engaging with a mentor.
“A suitable mentor could help him develop strategies to achieve his goals without further damaging, and potentially improving, relationships with [elected] members and staff, and taxpayer confidence in [the] advice.”
Sanson said she asked her questions before the meetings and was not told they were inappropriate, and never wanted to question the integrity of the staff. She said she did her best to follow the procedure, but hadn’t received any constructive guidance on how to frame her “due diligence” questions.
She filed a complaint about the code of conduct process with the Human Rights Commission (HRC), alleging “mistreatment by council leaders”.
“I did not ask or invite this [code of conduct] process, in fact I had asked for mediation to discuss the difficult nature of the board culture, and that is rather the approach that the board leadership has chosen,” she said.
“Mediation is now recommended by the Human Rights Commission, but a lot of time, money and heartache could have been saved if this had happened months ago when I requested it. .”
She said the process, which spanned 10 months, had been a huge distraction and she couldn’t wait for it to be “put to bed”, but she didn’t accept the report and said that she still had “a lot to say”. ”.
Dougherty said in a statement on Monday that the council was informed in July by the HRC that Sanson had filed a complaint alleging “unlawful discrimination”, and in that letter the HRC asked if the council would be willing to participate in mediation. .
“Council has since responded to the commission in writing raising several concerns about the filed complaint and explaining why it does not believe the complaint is appropriate for mediation through the commission’s process,” Dougherty said.
The full report and background information can be found in the 81-page Council agenda available online. The board will deliberate on the matter at Thursday’s board meeting to decide whether to end the process and give Sanson a letter of censure, or apply different sanctions (or none).