Colwood councillor disciplined for blocking city workers

Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day has been sanctioned by her council following a lengthy censure hearing last week.

After the five-hour hearing Thursday, Colwood councillors decided Day must write a letter of apology to city workers for comments she made in the media over an incident in December. Day will also not be able to serve as acting mayor for a year, councillors decided.

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Censure is a formal resolution by council to reprimand one of its members for a serious violation of law or city policy.

Last year, Day set up a protest camp on the boulevard outside her Charnley Place home. She was concerned the city would cut down three giant cedar trees she had planted on city property.

In early December, Day refused to allow city workers to remove a rock wall and a laurel hedge she had planted on public property outside her home more than two decades before.

On Dec. 5, the RCMP and a city bylaw officer told her that public works was removing the retaining wall.

The city cited safety reasons for removing the trees, including the fact that one had fallen onto a neighbouring home.

Day and the officers walked up to the boulevard to see what was going on. She was asked to move her van from the boulevard, but refused and it was towed.

Day, who has been on council since 2002, stood in the hedge and yelled at city workers to stop what they were doing. She was told if she stayed in the work area, she would be arrested — and she was. She was released without charges.

Six issues were raised during the censure hearing, Mayor Rob Martin said.

“The majority of them were about her comments and about how our code of ethics discusses that councillors are not to discuss in a negative light any staff or council members or people in the public. It was found that she did,” he said.

Council felt that a line had to be clearly drawn, Martin said.

“No representative of the city should publicly disparage another. No matter what the issue is, there are many more respectful and effective ways to resolve an issue.”

Martin said that the process has been “extremely challenging and uncomfortable” for all involved.

“It is not a process anyone wants to repeat, ever.”

Day did not respond by phone to requests for comment, saying it was “a hugely busy day.”

She did send an email in which she outlined a number of points, including that she and her husband were accused of bullying and harassment by a staff member shortly after they filed freedom of information requests. The complaints were investigated by a lawyer and were dismissed, she said.

Because of that finding, she said, she had anticipated that the censure hearing would have been cancelled at an April 23 council meeting.

She said that during her protest, and at all times in speaking with the media, she was acting as a private citizen and that Colwood’s ethics policy applies to members of council “in the performance of their public duties.”

Day said she has spent $1,000 for legal advice to make sure she was “doing everything right” in her role as a councillor.

She noted that at the censure hearing, she offered to write a letter of apology for speculating about the motives of staff.

Day said everyone has the right to peaceful protest and free speech and that she has received many messages and letters of support.

“I’m grateful that I will be able to continue with my committee appointments and work in the community,” she said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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