Wednesday, December 6, 2017

With a threat uttered to staff, the City of Prince Rupert changes policies related to access to City Hall and municipal officials

In recent months, visitors to
Prince Rupert City Hall have
been redirected to a side
entrance with the front
doors locked to the public
A note posted to the front door of Prince Rupert City Hall has highlighted what appears to have been a disturbing incident of a reported threat towards city staff and a change in policy for access to the building for those that may have business with municipal officials at the Third Avenue West municipal building.

Scotch taped to the front door of the main entrance to City Hall the note is brief and to the point, though with little in the way of background to the concerns that have been relayed:

"Due to written threats uttered against City Staff, additional security measures are now in place. Please go to the side entrance for service. Access to Administration Offices by appointment only"

And while the City is quite correct in taking measures to protect all of those that work at, or visit the building, the lack of any further information related to the incident and the notice of a change in civic policy is something that City officials should address for the public to offer further guidance on the situation.

The short advisory does raise any number of questions that the City may wish to provide more details on, while not compromising any personal privacy issues related to staff on site.

Among the areas where the City may wish to expand on when it comes to their decision:

Notes as to the nature of the threat and if it was related to any city policy initiatives, or was an interpersonal exchange between a staff member and an individual or individuals.

If the threats have been handed over to the RCMP for further investigation and what the status of that investigation, if underway may be.

Are there any concerns that the general public should be concerned about should they visit City Hall to address any personal business.

Without going into any technical details which may comprise their work, a review of what other security measures the City has taken to protect against such threats.

Whether any further measures are being contemplated by civic officials to reduce the opportunity for residents to seek access to City hall or municipal officials.

The change in policies on access come following a recently and unexplained cancelled Council Session from November 27th.

Clearly and it should be understood as a given, that threats of any kind to anyone that is in service to this community are not acceptable, and should be dealt with to the fullest extent that the law allows for.

However, the change in policy to access of municipal officials is something that the City needs to expand on further, providing better guidance to residents as to which officials residents will now be required to book an appointment with and which services are still available to the public on a walk in basis.

The reduced access to the Administration offices comes as Council has been discussing other issues related to access to Council activities, with recent Council meetings making note of some thought to changes to how the community can participate in City Council sessions, as well as changes to the city's communication policy.

November 6 -- City puts Communication policy plans on hold to allow for further study
November 3 -- Council to hold to current process for Committee of the Whole; explore other engagement options as well
October 30 -- City Staff to seek approval of new communications policy at Monday Council session
October 19 -- Council to explore new areas for community involvement in Council sessions
September 15 -- City Council is sliding backwards when it comes to civic engagement
May 26 -- Councillor Cunningham reinforces his desire for more information sharing with the public
May 12 -- Councillor Mirau to seek council discussion on Closed Meetings process
January 12 -- Councillor Cunningham calls for more public updates for Council Sessions

Those discussion topics and the new procedures now in place at City Hall may give some in the community the belief that they are having opportunities to engage with their elected officials and civic staff limited or scaled back, and that's probably a theme that the City Council will wish to offer some reassurance towards.

The new policy of a locked front door and reduced access to Administration officials has not to this point been addressed through any of the city's communication options, whether by way of the city website or Facebook pages or through the Mayor's own municipal issues orientated Facebook page.

As well, City Council members have not addressed the recent incident or their change of policies in any of their Regular Public Council sessions, nor have council members discussed in any forum how they may plan to move forward when it comes to any changes to access to municipal officials.

The City may want to consider putting some form of information backgrounder up on any of their information portals, not only as a way to draw more attention to the policy; but to better explain the changes for the city's residents.

For more items related to Prince Rupert City Council see our archive page here.

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