Red Deer city councillor Kraymer Barnstable will have to take training in confidentiality, diversity and inclusion after being found to have twice breached the council conduct code.
In a 5-2 vote held Monday after more than seven hours of discussion, other city councillors determined to accept an independent investigator’s report that found substance to two out of the six complaints laid against the first-term councillor by a member of the public.
Councillors Michael Dawe and Vesna Higham voted against accepting the report. Coun. Cindy Jefferies was absent.
A release from the City of Red Deer stated Barnstable’s two violations breached seven sections of the City Council Code of Conduct Bylaw.
The latest breach was found to have occurred on Feb. 1 when Barnstable publicly discussed confidential information during a conversation in a local coffee shop, contrary to the Red Deer Council Code of Conduct Bylaw.
Since his conversation was overheard, information was leaked about Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site transitioning to a mobile site overseen by Alberta Health Services before people working for the site’s current operator Turning Point were officially told.
The consultant stated that on June 22, 2022, Barnstable posted misinformation and his opposition to an event for children — Drag Queen Storytime at the Red Deer Public Library — on Facebook. This was found to be contrary to the Red Deer Council Code of Conduct Bylaw about inclusion and diversity.
It was this conclusion that caused Dawe and Higham to object to the report.
Barnstable described Drag Queen Storytime — at which a man in a dress read from a children’s book to kids who were brought by their parents to the library for this event — as “adult entertainment.”
Higham did not disagree. She told council she believes drag can be considered adult entertainment as it’s associated with a form of entertainment that unfolds in clubs where minors are generally not allowed to attend. She said it was foundational in a democracy that elected officials have the right to freely express their opinions and represent their constituency.
Dawe said he did not believe that Barnstable’s comments met the standard for breach of conduct. Dawe believes in the right for elected officials to speak their minds as long as it’s done in a respectful manner.
While Coun. Victor Doerksen had expressed objections to the report’s “presumption” that Barnstable’s comments paint gay men as predators, and unsuccessfully attempted to sever the report’s objections to his drag comment, Doerksen accepted the report in the end because of its other findings.
Barnstable already apologized for both incidents and previously disclosed the breach of confidentiality. Council passed a resolution that he complete city-manager approved training in confidentiality, and diversity and inclusion with respect to the Alberta Human Rights Act by Nov. 15.
Barnstable said on Tuesday that he was disappointed regarding the finding that his comments about Drag Queen Storytime constituted a breach of the code.
“I guess everyone is allowed to have an opinion unless it’s a conservative opinion,” he said.
Mayor Ken Johnston said he accepted the independent consultant’s reporting and ruling. Although he believes Barnstable has integrity and did not intend to cause offense or vilify anyone, his words and actions caused injury and offence “and that is what we are ruling on,” he added.
Independent investigator Veritas Solutions found Barnstable did not breach the conduct code for council for four other complaints.
These were: Posing a photo posted to social media with controversial and criminally charged pastor Artur Pawlowski; “liking” a Facebook post about an event featuring a member of the extreme-right Alternative for Germany Party; reading a religious book written by his wife in a public school classroom; and failing to delete his Twitter account upon election that contained his tweet from 2013 that denigrated homeless and transgender people.
As part of Monday’s meeting, city council also passed a resolution directing administration to schedule training for all members of city council focused on diversity and inclusion, as well as training related to confidentiality.
The City of Red Deer release stated that the costs of this Code of Conduct investigation are not yet fully known; however, the full report as well as costs of the investigation will be disclosed to the public in the coming weeks.