Threat shuts Low office
SQ investigate threatening voicemail
Someone crossed the line up the line.
A threatening voicemail directed at Low public works staff prompted the municipal hall to close on Aug. 27, and the Sûreté du Québec is investigating the incident.
“It’s unacceptable for people to target our employees in any form. If they have a problem, write to the office and it will be resolved,” Low Mayor Carole Robert told The Low Down.
According to Low director general Joanne Owens, someone left the voicemail on Aug. 26, but neither she nor the mayor could reveal specific details because the case was in the hands of the SQ.
“An investigation is active, so I cannot give you more details at this time because it could harm the work of my colleagues,” confirmed SQ Sgt. Jean Raphaël Drolet in an email to The Low Down.
Owens said the threat wasn’t directed at a public works staff in particular and, to her knowledge, wasn’t connected to an incident or project in particular.
“We really do have zero tolerance for [threatening] behaviour, not just toward the council but also [toward] municipal staff,” Owens said.
She said this is the first time since her hire in January that the office has had to close because of a threat, but she has had upset people bang on her office window and yell at her.
“Something like this — we’re obviously going to protect our employees and take it seriously,” Robert said.
She added that this is the first time during her stint on council that the office has closed because of a threat.
Owens said that municipal staff, just like private residents, are human beings with feelings and limitations. There are only four public works staff to cover over 100 kilometres of municipal roads, she explained.
“[Residents] may be impatient, but we will follow up on [reports],” she said.
In the past, tensions have run high in Low. The Low Down has been present for several council meetings when exchanges between residents and the council and staff about topics such as municipal finances, roads, septic pumping, and waste collection have become heated.
Harassment of municipal officials, usually elected councillors or mayors, is, however, by no means a problem isolated in Low.
Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green has all but given up on social media after two incidents in 2015 and 2017 where fake accounts used her picture and name in association with violent imagery, which prompted the police to investigate.
In late 2019, the Pontiac council passed a resolution to pay a legal firm to prepare an injunction to reveal the identity of people who had posted “derogatory and offensive” comments on Facebook targeting those that work for and live in the municipality.
In fall 2019, the Cantley council approved spending $9,500 to identify a Facebook user who paraded as the daughter of a former Cantley director general and accused councillors Aimé Sabourin and Louis Simon Joanisse of misconduct. In October, the person behind the accusation apologized, but their identity wasn’t released.
This incident in Low by no means represents the majority of Low residents, Owens said. “Ninety-nine per cent” of people go through the proper channels with their municipal questions, comments, or complaints.
The best way to get the ball rolling on getting a question answered or to bring an issue to the municipality’s attention is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. That way there’s documentation of when something is brought up and it can be forwarded to the correct staff member, Robert explained.
The mayor said that being polite and patient with busy staff can go a long way to correcting an issue that is within their power to fix.