News / Halifax

Halifax council votes for group sensitivity training to deal with complaints

Mayor Mike Savage said the complaints, which Metro has learned relate to two councillors, weren't 'swept under the rug' during a secret discussion.

Halifax City Hall

Jeff Harper/Metro / Halifax Staff

Halifax City Hall

Halifax regional council will be taking group sensitivity training after complaints were filed against councillors under the municipality’s code of conduct.

The municipality told Metro on Tuesday it had a total of 13 complaints against councillors under Administrative Order 52. A least three of those complaints were against Coun. Matt Whitman, and a source told Metro another three of those complaints were against a second councillor.

Whitman and Coun. Shawn Cleary had a heated debate on Twitter last month over whether the word “marijuana” is racist. Cleary used the f-word during that debate, and during a TV interview about the spat, Whitman used the word “negro.”

Whitman apologized at the beginning of the last council meeting. Cleary would not confirm Tuesday night any complaints were filed against him.

After hours of in camera – meaning closed to the public – discussion in council chambers ending late Tuesday night, council voted unanimously to take “group sensitivity training as arranged by the CAO and the mayor.”

Mayor Mike Savage told reporters after the meeting that the complaints against the councillors were dealt with.

“This wasn’t swept under the rug. This wasn’t pushed aside,” he said.

Even though that discussion was held behind closed doors and the municipality wouldn’t say which councillors were the subject of complaints, Savage said it was no secret.

“This hasn’t been a private process,” he said. “People have expressed their concerns publicly in a number of ways, so I don’t think there’s any secret about who the complaints were against.”

Earlier in the meeting, Coun. Tony Mancini’s motion to revisit the code of conduct under which the complaints were filed was met with scorn from several councillors.

Mancini proposed to review the code, and said his motion, while timely, was not intended to single out any councillor.

Coun. Bill Karsten found the motion personally insulting, and asked that it be split up.

In the end, council approved three parts of the original five-part motion, meaning staff will look at a review of the interpersonal behaviour and community representation sections of the code; a review of the code every four years; and a letter to the province to allow more punishments for councillors.

Council voted down a request to have councillors review and sign the code annually, and to look at hiring an integrity commissioner.

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