Calvin’s municipal council has issued a public statement “denouncing some of the recent bad behaviour from some of our local citizens” who have taken to “publicly cyberbully the Mayor and Council.”
The letter was released on May 25th, but the “bad behaviour” has been occurring for months, explained Giacomo Pastore, who penned the letter on the municipality’s behalf. The municipality was unsure how to handle the situation initially, so it reached out to Expertise for Municipalities (E4M) in Sault Ste. Marie for advice.
E4M is a non-profit organization that offers training and advice to municipalities. It also provides Integrity Commissioner services, which Calvin has used in the past. After asking E4M for advice on how to handle the instances of online bullying, E4M contacted Pastore, the president of Summit PCG, which specializes in communications, and asked him to draft a letter on the municipality’s behalf, denouncing the online harassment.
“They’ve had enough,” Pastore said, and the letter publicly declared that, although council is still “looking into other avenues” to remedy the situation should the harassment continue.
“We are elected and appointed to lead, make decisions, maintain and provide municipal services to all citizens of this community,” Mayor Ian Pennell said, and “there should be no acceptance of bullying, negative criticism, and defamation of character for those who stepped up to make this a better place to live.”
The mayor clarified that no council member should be subject to “phone bullying and cyberbullying” from a few individuals “who feel empowered by their computer to chastise” the work council does for the community.
“It’s a continual barrage of negative comments,” Pastore mentioned, noting that besides the calls, texts, and social media messages and comments, a website was also built to mock the sitting council. Moreso, at times municipal staff receive these messages as well, which is creating “a toxic work environment.”
The instances of cyberbullying are “unfortunate” the mayor said, and those individuals making the comments are setting “terrible examples” for the community. The behaviour “tarnishes this community’s credibility” the mayor continued and sends “the wrong message” about Calvin to other municipalities and to those “who might consider living or moving to our beautiful community in the future.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.