Elvena Slump, an outspoken watcher of city council for many years, is finding herself in the spotlight.
Slump is holding a press conference on the steps of city hall tomorrow at 11 a.m. to talk about a letter she recently received from the City of Penticton’s legal counsel threatening a defamation lawsuit unless she issues an apology.
At issue, said Mayor Garry Litke, is a series of comments Slump made directed at city staff.
While anyone is free to criticize council, said Litke, staff are not the same sort of public figures. Politicians can fight back and respond to criticism, according to Litke, but city staff don’t have the same ability to defend themselves.
“Council is fair game,” said Litke. “We signed up for this.”
Slump said she would be giving comment and responding to questions during her press conference, but declined to comment beforehand.
Litke said WorksafeBC legislation requires the city, as an employer, to provide a workplace free from harassment. All the city is doing, he explained, is trying to ensure that kind of workplace for its staff.
“We can’t have people working under the gun like that,” said Litke, explaining that it can have a number of effects from damaging the staff member’s reputation to causing lost work through distress and anxiety.
“That comes at a cost to taxpayers,” he said. “We really have no choice but to pursue this course.”
While Slump is well known for keeping a sharp eye on, and commenting on, the activities of this and previous Penticton administrations, and has often been critical in the past, Litke said this is different.
“Not the language she is using lately,” said Litke. “She is questioning the capability and responsibility of staff.”
Litke said the defamation suit isn’t focused on a particular issue, but looks at several letters to the editor and comments from Slump targeting four city staff members.
While the city hasn’t filed a defamation suit in court, the letter sent to Slump advises her to cease and desist her attacks on city staff, and gives her a seven days to respond with an apology.