Ward 4 London Councillor Susan Stevenson. Photo from London.ca.Ward 4 London Councillor Susan Stevenson. Photo from London.ca.
London

Report: Stevenson should be reprimanded for social media posts

London's integrity commissioner says a city councillor should be reprimanded for her social media posts about homelessness.

Susan Stevenson represents Ward 4, which includes Old East Village.

Multiple complaints were filed about her conduct, which included posting photos of Londoners who are homeless, seemingly without their permission.

"We find that the Councillor’s posts of photos of recognizable homeless individuals on social media failed to treat members of the public – particularly vulnerable persons – appropriately, and thereby fell below the standard expected of members of Council," the report read near the conclusion.

"Although not blatantly an act of abuse or bullying, the photos inappropriately infringed the personal privacy of the individuals involved, reflecting a disregard for the impact the post could have on the individuals involved and the homeless community at large," the report added.

The photos Stevenson posted did have some editing, but not enough according to the Integrity Commissioner.

"[Stevenson] clearly could have done more to anonymize the individuals photographed," the report said.

The Integrity Commissioner also questions Stevenson's judgement in making a July post, sharing an article that stated "the formerly homeless person must accept drug counseling if they are addicted; they must accept mental health services if they are mentally ill, and they must work or look for a job if they are able-bodied. If they don’t do these things and return to the streets despite the availability of shelter, they can and should be arrested, for they will not be homeless."

Advocates were angered by the article, which inspired a significant number of complaints.

Stevenson also challenged the legitimacy of the report when speaking to the integrity commissioner.

"Councillor Stevenson has taken the position that we did not properly initiate the [photo complaints], and so technically have failed to comply with the prescriptive requirements of London’s complaint protocol," said the report.

The Integrity Commissioner disagreed with her assessment and noted in the report that Stevenson's "refusal to recognize the validity of our investigation" shows that she has an "unyielding approach" to the issue.

The report recommends Stevenson's council colleagues reprimand her for her social media posts.

The harshest penalty available to council is Stevenson losing pay for 90 days. However, the report says the reprimand "reflects a serious sanction which is intended to convey the censure of both the Integrity Commissioner and Council."

In a Friday night statement, Stevenson said she rejected the findings of the report.

"In the process of coming to this conclusion, the Integrity Commissioner did not adhere to the Code of Conduct for Members of Council Complaint Protocol and found me in breach of the Code of Conduct prematurely and without due process," she wrote.

Stevenson noted she was "not served the complaint nor any supporting material for the basis of the complaint before receiving the Preliminary Report. I was also not requested to file a written response to an allegation within ten business days."

"They came to a conclusion prematurely without fair and necessary consideration of the facts, and have therefore compromised the entire process," her statement read.

The report will be debated by council at a future meeting at London City Hall.

The city's Integrity Commissioner has recommended a reprimand against at least one councillor for the third term in a row.

In 2016, Mayor Matt Brown and councillor Maureen Cassidy were reprimanded by their colleagues after admitting to an affair.

Last year, a motion to reprimand councillor Michael van Holst for violating the code of conduct was defeated on a 7-7 tie - despite the recommendation of then-Integrity Commissioner Greg Stewart.

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