Council’s handling of Hunter controversy questioned

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Airdrie City council met behind closed doors Oct. 2 to discuss the ongoing storm around controversial posts made by Coun. Allan Hunter on his social media. According to Mayor Peter Brown, council now considers the issue closed.

“We all know, as a council…(Airdrie’s) always been, and will continue to be, an inclusive community. We also see that demonstrated everyday as citizens come together in so many exceptional ways,” Brown said. “We have met in camera. Those conversations will not be made public and this council considers the matter closed.”

As reported in the Sept. 21 edition of the Airdrie City View, controversy flared after Hunter posted a Nazi symbol to his Twitter account Sept. 5. A number of citizens took to social media to ask why he posted the offensive image and were unhappy it took him more than 24 hours to address the issue. When he did, his apology raised more questions than answers for many, including Leon Cygman.

Cygman said he met for coffee with Hunter to try to get a better idea of why the councillor had posted the image – along with many other questionable posts that have come to light – but was unhappy with Hunter’s explanation.

Speaking during public question period Oct. 2, Cygman asked council to condemn the posts and re-affirm Airdrie is an inclusive community. Brown told him the issue would be addressed during board reports at the end of the meeting. Cygman waited for more than two hours to hear what Brown had to say. He said he was not happy with the outcome.

“I think it was an avoidance of the true issue. They did not denounce the posts and the message was not strong enough. This is a very serious matter and the Mayor just glossed over it,” Cygman said. “I believe they had an opportunity to define who we are and what Airdrie stands for. They could have gone beyond what is expected and show true leadership by standing up for a tolerant society. Instead, they did the minimum in an attempt to shovel the issue under the carpet.”

Cygman said he did not agree with council that because the posts were made to Hunter’s personal Facebook page – which features a banner photo of Hunter in front of City Hall and clearly denotes he is an elected official – it was not in a position to denounce them.

“I definitely disagree with that statement. By using the excuse the posts had nothing to do with them is technically correct; however, it is a reflection on them. Hunter’s posts cast a poor light on the city,” he said.

“What would happen if it came to light that a City employee was posting such material? I would think he/she would probably have been fired. In most organizations, leadership bears the responsibility for the actions of the people who represent them and then takes steps to educate their community that such behaviour is unacceptable.”

Cygman said he was concerned other citizens would be less inclined to come to council to ask questions given how he was treated during public question period.

“They avoided the issue, did not answer my question about passing a motion, and then left me no opportunity to respond. I felt that I should have insisted on an answer before I left the desk,” he said.

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