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Stratford Councillor Wants to Suspend Policy Behind Temporary Bans at City Hall

Stratford Councillor Wants to Suspend Policy Behind Temporary Bans at City Hall
Stratford Councillor Wants to Suspend Policy Behind Temporary Bans at City Hall

A city councillor wants to suspend Stratford’s respectful workplace policy after a year of disruption and controversy at City Hall.

The new policy was introduced last year.

“It’s meant for workplaces, including council meetings, where everyone is respectful, but where there’s still room for disagreements, but with respect from everyone,” said council member Cody Sebben.

In February, Mike Sullivan and Barb Shaughnessy were temporarily suspended from council meetings after allegedly using “unreasonable, inappropriate and intimidating” language toward council and staff that “was known, or reasonably should have been known, to be unwelcome.”

After the pair were banned, Sebben said it was time to take another look at the way the policy was being implemented.

“The important thing now is to press pause, take a step back and evaluate the process that is happening and give everyone the opportunity to … reflect and evaluate and see how we can make improvements going forward,” he said.

According to Sebben, he has heard from residents that the bans imposed by the city are keeping people away from City Hall.

“People who have reached out are afraid to speak at a meeting because they are afraid of getting a letter from a lawyer that they just don’t want to deal with,” Sebben said.

A group called Save Our Speech Stratford has been formed to oppose what they call the city’s heavy-handed use of this policy.

“There has been a major attack on free speech and democratic principles in City Hall,” said Robert Roth, a spokesman for the group.

Roth and the group applaud Sebben’s proposal to revise the policy.

“It should not be used as a weapon against ordinary citizens in a public forum. A public forum has special obligations to maximize freedom of expression,” Roth said.

Sebben’s motion to suspend and revise the policy is expected to be discussed at a council meeting on July 22.