What constitutes privacy?
That was the question posed by Huntsville Councillor Jonathan Wiebe, the only dissenting voice when council was asked to ratify a report by integrity commissioner Robert Swayze at its regular council meeting on Tuesday, December 17, 2019.
In his report, Swayze recommended that Councillor Brian Thompson be reprimanded for breaking the Council Code of Conduct when he sent a text message to Hunters Bay Radio morning director Grant Nichalls which contained vulgar language about the station’s managing director Jeff Carter, who launched the complaint.
“I have decided to recommend only a reprimand because it is a first offence and this report must be made public as required by the Municipal Act. It is hoped that Councillor Thompson will be aware that a repeat offence will have more serious consequences,” added Swayze.
But Wiebe questioned the commissioner’s conclusion. “I have a question surrounding what does in fact constitute privacy?” Wiebe noted that based on his understanding of the violation in question, communication was exchanged between two personal cell phones, and questioned where the line is drawn between a private and public exchange.
Huntsville clerk Tanya Calleja said it was unfortunate but the commissioner did not attend the meeting because he did not think he would be required.
“I feel like I’ve got questions that maybe can’t get answered today,” said Wiebe. He agreed to email his questions to the clerk who would forward them to the integrity commissioner and share the commissioner’s response with council.
Calleja noted that Huntsville’s integrity commissioner, as well as the Council Code of Conduct, are prescribed under the Municipal Act. She said that while Councillor Thompson could speak on the issue and sit in on the discussion, he could not vote on the commissioner’s recommendation.
In the end, the recommendation was approved by all of council with the exception of Wiebe.
There were no comments from Thompson.
Following the meeting, when Doppler asked him to comment on the issue, he said: “I sent a personal and private text to a friend and where it went from there I don’t know. I mean I’ve heard but I don’t want to offer conjecture on it at all. I’ve heard different stories on it but it was a personal and private text that I sent and that’s really all I have to say about it.”
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