News / Halifax

Halifax resident questions process after filing complaint against councillor

The resident was left unsatisfied after filing a complaint against Coun. Richard Zurawski stemming from a ‘rude’ phone call.

Coun. Richard Zurawski being sworn in on Nov. 1, 2016.

Jeff Harper/Metro / Metro Web Upload

Coun. Richard Zurawski being sworn in on Nov. 1, 2016.

A Halifax resident says he was left unsatisfied after filing a complaint against his councillor last year.

Complaints against councillors are filed under their code of conduct, Administrative Order 52. At this week’s meeting, councillors voted to take a second look at parts of that code, and dealt with 13 complaints filed against councillors in the past few weeks, eventually agreeing to take group cultural sensitivity training.

Those complaints, and the code itself, have been well publicized of late, but at least one complaint last year received no attention at all.

This week, Metro spoke with a Halifax resident who went through the process of filing a complaint against his representative, Coun. Richard Zurawski.

Fearing backlash against his family, the man asked to remain anonymous, and Metro obliged.

“It was one of the most frustrating experiences that my wife and I have ever had,” he said.

“It was fraught with deceit, with no transparency whatsoever, and certainly an unsatisfactory conclusion.”

It started with a typical call: the resident phoned his councillor to talk about snow removal in his neighbourhood.

“It was the first snow storm of the year, in November,” he said.

Zurawski didn’t answer, so he left a message.

When Zurawski called back the next day, the resident said the councillor complained about the time of the original call: 10:30 p.m.

“He just would not speak to me civilly. He said, ‘Before I talk to you, you have to apologize for phoning,’” he said.

“I tried to explain to him, a 10:30 call, I didn’t expect him to answer. I wanted to leave a voicemail.”

The resident said in his previous dealings with councillors, a call at that time wasn’t out of the ordinary.

“He never did hear my complaint. He refused to listen to me, and he hung up,” he said.

“I found that that was rude, and that it was unsatisfactory as a citizen, as a constituent, and as a taxpayer.”

Metro contacted Zurawski to get his side of this story. He had no comment.

The resident decided to file a complaint against Zurawski to the municipal clerk’s office.

“I swear they didn’t know what to do with it. It was almost like they’d never had it before,” he said.

Metro has a copy of the complaint, filed in December 2016, in which the resident cites the conduct to be observed, interpersonal behaviour and community representation sections of the code of conduct – two of which will be under review after this week’s vote in council.

A few months later, he got a call to meet with HRM CAO Jacques Dubé and solicitor John Traves.

In that meeting, he said he was told they’d spoken to the councillor and he acknowledged he was wrong. He was asked if he’d accept an apology, rather than the complaint going to council.

“They didn’t say nothing would be done, but that it would die there, basically,” he said.

The resident met with his councillor, but didn’t get the apology.

“We went in innocently, just expecting an apology. Instead, we got more of the same that I had put up with in the first phone conversation,” he said.

“I said, ‘We were led to believe you were here to apologize to us.’ Well, he went up and down us, and then called me a bully.”

He wrote to Dubé to try to find out why this had happened, and got a “curt” letter from the municipality in July.

Metro has a copy of the letter, in which municipal clerk Kevin Arjoon writes that the matter was dealt with by council on July 18, and “determined that the matter be dismissed and that no further action be required.”

Council debated a private and confidential report on a “personnel matter” during its in camera session on July 18, according to that day’s agenda.

The municipality said it doesn’t comment on complaints against councillors because they’re considered personnel matters.

The resident believes council should hire an independent voice to look at these complaints, like the integrity commissioner Coun. Tony Mancini asked for in his motion at council this week, along with a better procedure for dealing with complaints against councillors.

More on