Kaslo Village council is looking into adopting a code of conduct at the request of a woman who said a councillor adopted an “unprofessional, condescending and arrogant tone” in an email exchange with her.
Susan Chamberlain wrote to council in August to air her concerns about the Village changing the words in an anti-racism proclamation. She also suggested Councillor Henry Van Mill resign for a number of comments he made on the issue.
After her letter was posted to Facebook, an email exchange began between Chamberlain, who lives in Area D just outside of Kaslo, and Councillor Kellie Knoll.
“Excuse me, who are you and what do you want?” Knoll asked Chamberlain in a brief email. “I think you need to move on because we have.”
Chamberlain responded, saying as a person worried about human rights and issues of justice, she could not “move on.” And she took issue to Knoll’s curt reply.
“Lastly, I am surprised and shocked by the unprofessional, condescending, arrogant tone in your response to my letter,” she said. “I request that future correspondence with me be more respectful and show the same consideration that I have given you.”
That’s not what happened. In a response that defended Councillor Van Mill and questioned her reasons for calling for his resignation, Knoll called her criticism “an insult.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you but honestly I found your whole email an insult to the municipality,” he said. “You can’t even come as a delegation to council to voice your concerns, you hide behind an email then have the gaul [sic] to comment and post [it] on Facebook. … I usually don’t comment or reply to these kind of emails but this pissed me off. Again sorry if I offend you, but I’m feeling no love from you with these blind requests.”
Chamberlain came to the Sept. 15 council meeting to voice her concerns about the exchange in person.
“I was dismayed by the unprofessional tone of the emails I received from Councillor Knoll and became curious about the code of conduct that the Village of Kaslo council may use in correspondence and in personal conversations with the public,” she said.
Finding council doesn’t have a code of conduct, she called on Kaslo council to look into adopting one.
In questioning after her presentation, Knoll twice apologized for his comments to her – but qualified his statement both times.
“I do apologize for my comments, but [your comments] did trigger me in a way, just because one person on council doesn’t agree with your ideology, you think the rest of us don’t. Yet we moved these wonderful things in the community – most likely we’ll soon be acknowledging [Indigenous land recognition], so I’m not so certain why you want to be pushing this piece of resignation of certain council members.”
A second apology a few moments later repeated the theme. Then Knoll said he had purposely provoked the response from Chamberlain.
“That was one of the reasons why I baited you with those little words whence to bring this stuff up, of what we put out there to the community and what reflection that shows in a greater sense.”
“So you baited me? asked Chamberlain.
“A couple of words,” said Knoll. “To throw you into this. I would say that’s a bait, wouldn’t it?”
Chamberlain was taken aback, but thanked the council for discussing the matter. Mayor Suzan Hewat then said the council would consider the code of conduct.
“And an apology with no ‘buts’: I am sorry for those rude and curt words I used. Honestly,” said Knoll, ending Chamberlain’s delegation.
Chamberlain thanked Knoll for the apology.
When the recommendation came forward directing the administration to look into a code of conduct, Knoll moved the initial motion. It was seconded by Councillor Rob Lang.
But the decision didn’t end some citizens’ concerns.
In the public question period, another member of the Kaslo anti-racism group questioned why Knoll would bait a member of the public.
“Kellie Knoll, I’ve known you for most of my life, I think you are a wonderful member of our community,” said Margaret Smith. “But I was surprised and shocked by the letters that were received by a member of our community from a council member, and also by the comment at this meeting that you were trying to bait somebody. I guess I still don’t understand that and would like some clarification on that.”
“I was trying to get a point across about the misuse of Facebook and the general effect it can have on the community,” he replied. “So I knew a couple of words could create this conversation that we’re having here today, that created a code of conduct out of it … so where are you going with this?”
“Where I am going with this is to ask why, in a council meeting, you say you are baiting a member of the public,” said Smith. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. I guess we’ll have to leave this for discussion for another time.”
Hewat put an end to the discussion, saying it was straying into personal issues, and not council business.
The administration will report back on how a code of conduct might be applied to council.
– Valley Voice