Park Board cut off staff complaining about workplace bullying during ethics meeting

Jul 19 2022, 6:17 pm

The Vancouver Park Board is under fire after a commissioner interrupted and cut off a Park Board employee for making a workplace harassment complaint in a public setting.

Jose Rafael was a public speaker during Monday evening’s public meeting on the Park Board’s new Code of Conduct Policy.

He described himself as a resident of the West End and a student, and he’s three months into his new role as a Park Board operations worker servicing Downtown Eastside parks.

“In the first three months, I’ve witnessed widespread fear of management. Within my first week, I’ve been subjected to racism in the workplace by supervisors, and I’ve witnessed repeated violations of the city’s current bullying and harassment policies,” attested Rafael, before being suddenly stopped in his tracks by Green Party commissioner Camil Dumont.

In his advisement to the worker, Dumont suggested this is the wrong platform to air his grievances, as this is a “human resources matter” and “your presence here may have repercussions for yourself.”

Rafael then proceeded to make some general concluding remarks on the Park Board’s approach to its Code of Conduct and ethics.

“I’ve witnessed a chasm, a divide between city policies and operations. I do hope that whatever new policies do come in the years and months coming forward, it actually reflects the operations of the city,” said Rafael.

Before Rafael left the podium, Dumont told the speaker he should set up a meeting immediately with the Park Board’s senior leadership team in the room.

At the time of writing, Daily Hive has not been able to reach out to Rafael, and several commissioners have stated they are unable to comment on what they deem to be a personal matter.

There is widespread condemnation of Dumont’s handling of the incident, and some have even suggested, possibly, that Rafael was using the public meeting platform as an option of last resort after making complaints through the usual human resources approach.

Park Board commissioners ended the agenda item, approving the Code of Conduct and the creation of an Integrity Commissioner to monitor the activities of the Park Board. The approval was made in a 5-2 vote, with Green, COPE, and Vision Vancouver commissioners in support, and NPA commissioners opposed.

NPA commissioners Tricia Barker and John Coupar took issue with the outgoing Park Board elected body making critical decisions on how the future makeup of the elected body, after the October 15 civic election, will operate. Most of the current commissioners will not be running again.

Coupar suggested the wording in the Code of Conduct further allows a majority party or coalition within the elected body to muzzle a minority, and that the Independent Commissioner’s term will last for only two years, with options for renewal.

Vancouver City Council, which controls the budget of the Park Board, has approved a budget of $200,000 for the first year of the Integrity Commissioner. However, the Park Board currently believes it can achieve the Integrity Commissioner’s mandate with a budget of up to $50,000.

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