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Langford councillor harassed at home by 'disgruntled member of the public': mayor

Some members of the public could be banned from live meetings of council, which is considering taking legal action
Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson is flanked by, from left, councillors Mary Wagner, Colby Harder, Kimberley Guiry and Lillian Szpak at a press conference at Langford City Hall council chambers on Wednesday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Some members of the public could be banned from in-person meetings of Langford council, which says it’s considering legal action after a councillor was photographed and harassed at home during the evening hours.

Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson said at a news conference Wednesday that a member of the public was observed staring through the windows and appearing to be taking photographs of the interior of the council member’s home. The councillor was not named and no date was provided, though Goodmanson said the incident was “quite recent.”

“This incident involved a disgruntled member of the public who has spent the last year being angry and unaccepting of the results of a democratic election,” Goodmanson said in prepared remarks at the news conference, where he was flanked by councillors Mary Wagner, Colby Harder, Kimberly Guiry and Lillian Szpak, who did not speak.

“When confronted, this person began harassing the councillor about personal matters that were completely unrelated to city business.”

Asked if the councillor in question was in the room, Goodmanson declined to say.

The council member reported the incident to West Shore RCMP.

Police said they investigated and determined that although the behaviour was concerning, no criminal act had been committed.

The incident is part of a trend of increasing “hostility” toward the mayor and councillors who took power in October 2022, Goodmanson said. The new council replaced seven-term, 30-year mayor Stew Young, and all but one councillor.

“When elected officials and their families no longer feel safe in their home, when staff begin to dread interactions with certain members of the public, when members of the public do not feel safe participating in democracy, including running for office and attending open public meetings, we have reached a point where we must decide between productive civil discourse or allowing instability and aggression to become the standard of behaviour,” Goodmanson said.

The news conference came the day after protests involving about 50 people erupted outside city hall over council’s proposed budget and unprecedented tax increases. Opponents of the new council have disrupted council meetings for more than a year.

“In 2022, there was a very clear call for change. Unfortunately, a small minority of residents have been ­unable to accept this and have indulged in behaviour that creates an atmosphere of fear, mistrust, anger and hostility,” said Goodmanson, who called on current and former leaders, including Young, to “strongly denounce this troubling and inappropriate behaviour.”

Councillors Keith Yacucha and Mark Morley were not present at the news conference, but Goodmanson said all councillors “stand united in this message.”

“Some people are behaving in a way that is contrary to the city’s respectful workplace policy and therefore the city has an obligation to take action to ensure that council, staff and public feel safe,” said Goodmanson. He said that could include banning individuals who “behave inappropriately” from in-person attendance at council, or seeking “stronger remedies” through the courts.

Goodmanson said the City of Langford “is at its most divided” and called on Young to help heal the divisions. “I am contacting the former mayor through this, right now,” he said.

But Young said in an interview Wednesday that he has no intention of interfering with what he called people’s right to free speech.

“People are pissed off and they have every right to be when you’re looking at a 25% tax increase [over two years],” said Young.

“During the time I was mayor for 30 years, I never once held a press conference to complain about people who didn’t agree with me … and there were lots of people who didn’t agree with me.”

The former mayor said the current mayor and council “have to have thicker skin to do the job, and they’re not going to get me to stop people from doing what they’re doing.”

Although he did not cite other specific examples of intimidation, Goodmanson said a small group has escalated their “comments and actions, and we’re at a point that we’re coming to you right now to say this cannot continue.”

“Everyone who wishes to run for office should feel free to run for office, and anyone feeling that they can’t because of fear for their life or family is absolutely inappropriate and we can’t let this behaviour continue.”

Asked if increasing media criticism is potentially seeding some of the harassment issues, Goodmanson said “yes,” but did not cite any specific examples or media outlets. “There have been more than we have time to talk about today.”

Young said he hasn’t received any calls from Goodmanson, councillors or staff asking for advice since losing the civic election, though at the time he made it known he would be there if needed.

Goodmanson out-polled Young 4,483 votes to 3,796, capturing 53 per cent of the vote.

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