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Stratford resident banned from city property and contacting staff

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A couple of Stratford residents claim they have been banned from attending any city owned properties or from speaking with any city staff for three months.

Mike Sullivan said he received a letter from City of Stratford lawyers on April 4, banning him from city owned buildings and from communicating with city staff for three months ending on July. He said the letter also states that he can face legal proceedings against him or police contacted in certain circumstances.

"I can't participate. The ban is from all city premises and for any communication with any city staff. So I can't go to the library," Sullivan said.

According to the letter Sullivan received, the city received numerous complaints and incident reports under its Respectful Workplace Policy, related to statements Sullivan made at a council meeting on February 26.

"We weren't aggressive or angry or any of those kinds of things. We were just normal for us anyway, criticism of city hall," Sullivan said.

The letter claims complaints are not limited to Sullivan’s actions just that day. It said he made numerous derogatory and misleading comments against several members of senior administrative staff. Adding the commentary “was unreasonable, inappropriate and harassing and known, or ought reasonably to have been known as unwelcome.”

The letter went on to say the city “does not tolerate any behaviour that is hostile, offensive, humiliating, derogatory, defamatory, vexatious and denies individuals their dignity and respect in the workplace.”

Sullivan said he has tried to ask what comments were a problem but has not received any information.

"We immediately asked, several people immediately asked for details. I filed an FOI because I knew they weren't going to give me details. The others just asked in writing for details. And there's been absolutely nothing," Sullivan said.

Barb Shaughnessy, who presented as a delegate at the meeting, was also banned. Jane Marie Mitchell, was given a written warning by Stratford’s lawyer.

Sullivan said there was also a man who got in a shouting argument after the meeting and was banned.

During the meeting in February, Sullivan asked council to act sooner on recommendations of the closed meetings investigator, and accused the mayor of having a pecuniary interest in the Bradshaw Lofts. The mayor said he does not, and Sullivan said he apologized for being wrong.

Shaughnessy started naming staff and their credentials for the job. Shaughnessy was asked not to do that. Shaugnessy apologized for talking about staff.

Stratford Chief Administrative Officer Joan Thomson was not available for an interview but said in an email:

"As a result of a few recent instances of disrespectful behaviour in the council chambers, a review took place and certain actions implemented. Again, it is our responsibility and our duty to take appropriate action when someone violates our Respectful Workplace Policy. That action could be as simple as a warning, or as firm as a temporary suspension from city facilities, depending on the circumstances."

Sullivan said he was given 20 days to appeal, and tried to do so, but hasn't heard anything back. He's engaged lawyer David Donnelly to take legal action against the city.

Donnelly wrote to the city saying the proposed ban is “unconstitutional and illegal.”

"Assuming that there is no appeal or that the appeal is unsuccessful, we go to court and either ask for a quashing of Stratford's decision or an injunction against it, and let Stratford argue," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said if the appeal process is not successful, he intends to have his lawyer ask a court to order the city to rescind the action.

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