Staff at Summerland’s municipal hall have been subjected to verbally abusive and bullying behaviour from some members of the public, municipal administrator Graham Statt says. (Summerland Review file photo)

Staff at Summerland’s municipal hall have been subjected to verbally abusive and bullying behaviour from some members of the public, municipal administrator Graham Statt says. (Summerland Review file photo)

Summerland municipal staff report abuse over tax and utility changes

Municipality to take zero-tolerance approach to mistreatment of staff members

Staff at Summerland’s municipal hall have been subjected to abusive behaviour by some people during telephone calls and in-person discussions.

“There have been several instances of verbally abusive and bullying behaviour by some members of the public in the district main office building,” Graham Statt, Summerland’s chief administrative officer, said during his report at the March 8 council meeting.

He described the confrontations as “an escalation of verbal abuse” during recent weeks. Some of these are from people who have frequently become abusive in their tone.

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The encounters have include raised voices and swearing, but so far have not escalated to violence or threats against staff.

Some of the anger has come in discussions about utility rate changes and the municipality’s 1.65 per cent tax rate increase.

Statt said some in the community have wanted the municipality to have no tax or rate increases, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Frustrations are being acted out in ways that would not have been done in the past,” Statt said.

However, while the rate increases have resulted in outbursts, two recent controversial council decisions have not generated the same reaction at municipal hall.

A proposed five-storey, 60-unit apartment building on Jubilee Road East and the municipality’s decision to reaffirm its commitment to the solar and storage project have generated reactions from some members of the public, but neither has resulted in an angry tone directed towards municipal staff.

Statt said the public process to comment on decisions of this nature is working and people are following this process.

To counter the aggressive and abusive tone, Statt said the municipality will set up signs advising the public of its zero-tolerance policy of abusive or bullying behaviour. In addition, a future issue of the municipal newsletter will include a similar message.

Those who persist may be denied the opportunity to have in-person service at Summerland’s municipal hall.

“In-person service is a privilege which can be revoked for a customer when their behaviours create an unsafe or disrespectful atmosphere for our public servants,” Statt told council.

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