‘Condescending and misogynistic’ treatment leads Port Moody councillor to seek code of conduct

Veteran Coun. Diana Dilworth says municipal politicians have a right to a respectful and safe workplace, calls on province to develop a code of conduct and complaint process

A Port Moody city councillor is calling on the B.C. government to establish a code of conduct for municipal politicians after what she says was an attempt by the mayor to humiliate her in a chauvinistic display before council.

Diana Dilworth said she has been demeaned and maligned at Port Moody council meetings and singled out Mayor Rob Vagramov for acting ‘condescending and misogynistic’ towards her.

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Her call for changes follows a July 28 meeting where Dilworth said Vagramov used "terms to portray me as aggressive, angry, inaccurate, when in fact if you watch the meeting I was anything but.”

“I believe his words were meant to demean and humiliate me and put me in my place, which is certainly not the role of an elected official,” Dilworth said during Tuesday’s meeting, adding that she didn’t feel that her concerns would be treated fairly given the political divisions on council.

Vagramov said the work environment at Port Moody council has been hostile since he was first elected to council six years ago.

"As a city councillor, I witnessed first-hand just how ruthlessly political dissenters were handled by a creepy little insider's circle," he said, adding since being elected mayor he's worked "to treat folks with consistent respect and fairness." 

However, Dilworth said her motion for the province to establish a code of conduct for municipal politicians and a process for complaints is not just to deal with her concerns but to give other women, and even men who have not been treated respectfully, a place where their concerns would be heard.

Unlike city staff who have a harassment process for dealing with interpersonal concerns, civic politicians have no such redress.

Dilworth confirmed there is no such code of conduct and complaint process for municipal politicians with Selina Robinson, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, who is also a Coquitlam-Maillardville NDP MLA.

In her notice of motion to be discussed at the Oct. 13 council meeting, Dilworth asked that civic politicians have a right to a respectful and safe workplace and that the province develop a code of conduct that is overseen by the province, so that all elected officials have access to a consistent, formal set of standards and processes to make a complaint against other elected officials.

Vagramov said he approves of such an approach "to try and return civility to politics in B.C."

If approved by council, the motion would be passed on to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association and the Union of BC Municipalities for consideration at their 2020 events.

 

Vagramov's statement to the Tri-City News in full is as follows:

“Since I was first elected six years ago, I have been dealing with, and struggling to brighten, the hostile work environment that became a fixture of Port Moody City Council during the last administration. As a City Councillor, I witnessed first-hand just how ruthlessly political dissenters were handled by a creepy little insider's circle that used to run City Hall.

Determined to change that, I repeatedly bought up the workplace harassment issues during my 2018 campaign, and I have done my best as Mayor to treat folks with consistent respect and fairness, even in the face of blistering and oftentimes unsubstantiated attacks from some, including Councillor Dilworth, who seem perfectly comfortable tearing down others, yet rush to take personal offense and claim special mistreatment when their own positions, words, and actions are criticized. 

Democracy thrives with vigorous back-and-forth at decision-making tables, and democracy erodes if politicians are able to shut down policy debates simply by saying they’re too offended.

Whether its choosing condos at the expense of slicing a road through our largest park, or choosing condos over a real chance at economic development at Moody Centre, or choosing condos instead of an expansion to Rocky Point Park, or countless other important issues, the public can count on me to continue calling out and criticizing poor public policy - past or present - that makes life worse, completely regardless of the gender of the politician who happens to propose or support them. 

I certainly support a Provincial approach to try and return civility to politics in BC, but I’m surprised that Diana Dilworth has suddenly become interested in this issue, given how I’ve personally seen her treat those who disagree with her in the past.”
 

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