Couns. Fred Haynes and Vicki Sanders were in a Facebook conversation that ended with Haynes removing comments and posting a public apology to Sanders. File photos

Online spat ends with Saanich councillor posting public apology

Council disagreement spills into Facebook comments

Facebook is at the centre of the latest Saanich council conflict as Coun. Fred Haynes posted an open apology to Coun. Vicki Sanders on Saturday.

Haynes made the statement on his “Fred Haynes in Saanich” page in light of a dispute over comments made in a Nov. 8 discussion. That discussion was based on council’s Nov. 6 decision to rescind the Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw.

Both Haynes’ and Sanders’ names had been singled out in the thread, with Haynes attempting to broaden the discussion by bringing in previous decisions, he said. However, Sanders saw the posts differently, and filed a complaint with the CAO of Saanich that Haynes had breached the Saanich council code of conduct. The CAO Paul Thorkelsson and Mayor Richard Atwell met with Haynes and Sanders in December which resulted in Haynes’ apology on Dec. 30.

“I thought entering the debate would help broaden perspective, however, the Saanich council code of conduct is clear you don’t engage on social media [after the fact],” Haynes said.

See: Saanich Mayor’s Facebook page stokes fiery council debate

Haynes doesn’t believe his comments were disparaging and, in good will, has since removed the posts in question, he said.

Sanders disagreed, but refused to comment beyond saying that while the letter may have been posted on Haynes’ Facebook page it was not sent to her directly. She was made aware of it through a friend.

“When you work in the public life and go on social media you must always be careful what you post about yourself and about people,” Sanders said. “As a politician you’re vulnerable to the code of conduct.”

In August 2015, Haynes and fellow council members held Mayor Richard Atwell accountable for allowing libellous user comments on his mayoral Facebook page, particularly about Saanich staff. It resulted in Atwell applying new standards to his page.

In Haynes situation with Sanders, he refers to Rule 7.2 of Saanich council’s code of conduct, which states that councillors “will refrain from making disparaging comments about other … Council’s processes and decisions.”

A quick search revealed the two are not Facebook friends via their personal pages. A further review noted that while many Greater Victoria councillors and mayors are ‘friends,’ not all on Saanich council are (Coun. Leif Wergeland is not on Facebook).

reporter@saanichnews.com

See the letter from Fred Haynes’ Facebook page here:

Open Facebook Apology to Councillor Vicki Sanders

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dear Councillor Vicki Sanders,

I sincerely apologize to you for my posts in conversations on Facebook on the 8th of November this year where in two posts I singled out (via your initials) your vote on two land use decisions. These posts were responding to threads on Facebook where your name was included. I apologize that I posted in this way. It was inappropriate. I assure you that I will not do so again.

In discussing land use policies in my posts of November 8th, I mentioned the votes of several other Councillors. I assure you that no offense was intended to you or to any member of Council. These posts have been removed. As well as my personal apology to you, I agree to making an open statement to council regarding these actions, how they have been addressed, that they will not happen again and that I unreservedly apologize to you.

Additionally I agree to provide a post on Facebook that recognizes your concerns, how I addressed them, that such posts will not happen again and that I apologize to you.

In Background: The posts in question were made on November 8th, in a dynamic on-line dialogue. The following day, upon reflection, I revisited the conversation to correct information and remove councillor identifiers. In doing these corrections, I am sorry that regrettably I missed some posts that mentioned you.

On November 15th I discussed these posts with Mayor Atwell and Mr. Thorkelsson. We also discussed posts I had made which mentioned other members of Council. It was a helpful discussion. It provided improved clarity on our council policies especially in regards to the interplay of social media, our Code of Conduct and our shared work environment. Following that meeting I took immediate steps to ensure the posts of concern were removed. I believe that all posts in question are now deleted. If any remain, please let me know and I will remove them immediately.

I have a high regard for all members of Council. I share with you my wish for congenial, respectful working relationships with all my elected colleagues. This is both within the Council Chamber, meeting rooms at the municipal hall, at Saanich events, in the community at large, and on social media. I look forward to working with you, Council, staff and our residents to productively address coming issues on behalf of the people of Saanich.

Sincerely,

Councillor Fred Haynes

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