North Cowichan councillor Joyce Behnsen has not been appointed to sit any any committees in 2018. (File photo)

Councillor Behnsen excluded from committee appointments in reprimand

North Cowichan councillor being disciplined for bullying and harassing municipl employee

North Cowichan councillor Joyce Behnsen has been excluded from all the municipality’s committees, subcommittees and liaison appointments for 2018.

Behnsen was taken to task last month for the bullying and harassment of a municipal employee.

Mayor Jon Lefebure said at the time that Behnsen would face “corrective measures” for her behaviour, but the matter is considered confidential so he wasn’t able to disclose how she would be disciplined.

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Behnsen acknowledged the mayor’s decision not to appoint her to any committees is part of her punishment.

“What should I say to the public, whom I was voted to represent, about the fact that I’m not on any of these committees next year?” she asked council at the Dec. 6 meeting.

Behnsen had been a member of the municipality’s public works committee in 2017, as well as the liaison with the community policing advisory committee, liaison with the City of Duncan’s tourism committee, and a liaison with the Our Cowichan Health Network.

“I’m still permitted to sit in on any committee meetings I want to, and that’s important to me,” she said.

“Public works is my strength because I have a background in it. It’s important that we get our roads and sidewalks right and I’ll continue to do my best to see to that.”

Lefebure read a statement at the beginning of a public budget meeting on Nov. 27 stating that the municipality had received complaints from one of its employees claiming to have been bullied and harassed by Behnsen between April and May, 2017.

Lefebure said North Cowichan hired an investigator and carried out an investigation of the allegations, and concluded that Behnsen’s conduct amounted to bullying and harassment of the employee.

Lefebure also acknowledged that his decision not to appoint Behnsen to any of the committees or liaison positions was connected to the corrective measures against her for the bullying and harassment issue.

But, due to confidentiality rules, he couldn’t disclose what, if any, other measures have been taken against her.

“The other council members will be required to take on more responsibilities with the committees as a result of this,” Lefebure said.

Behnsen questioned whether she should be punished at all.

“The municipality has a lot of protections in place for staff, but no protocols in place for when staff is interacting with the public,” she said.

She also pointed out that Coun. Tom Walker had been appointed as a director on the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board for the fourth year in a row.

“We were told that the responsibilities on the CVRD’s board would be split up during this term,” she said.

“The other side of this is that by not being on any of the committees gives me more time to work for the people, and I’m OK with that.”

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