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).