Town councillor apologizes after coffee-fueled interaction with staff

La Ronge Town Councillor Abby Besharah got herself into hot water while seeking to open a coffee shop in the northern Saskatchewan community

La Ronge Town Councillor Abby Besharah was ‘chomping at the bit’ to open a new coffee shop in town and decried ‘red tape’ during a recent tense encounter at the office, staff said. That coffee-fueled discussion landed the first-term councillor on the wrong side of municipal policy. 

According to the complaint report Besharah had been asking about the timing of the steps needed to have a permit application approved for her new business. 

An employee said he was processing the application as fast as he could and Besharah replied that “every minute counts.” 

“I’m trying to open a small cafe in La Ronge,” Besharah said. She explained that she was speaking with a former colleague from when she used to work for the town. 

“I went into the town office to pick up my discretionary use permit sign and ended up having a technical discussion with a former co-worker about delays and interpretation of code.”

An external investigator hired by the town at a cost of $8,000 recommended no further disciplinary action and Besharah sent a letter of apology to staff for the encounter. 

“The person I interacted with received my heartfelt apology. Despite it being identified in the report that the person didn’t characterize our interaction as abusive, it’s clear that witnesses in the report were very taken by the interaction,” Besharah said.  

“It evoked some discussions and I’d like to apologize to those people. I hope this report gives them some peace of mind knowing that their candid thoughts on their co-worker and on my behaviour are available for everyone to see in their entirety — warts and all.”

The employee said Besharah was getting agitated as she felt there was “too much red tape” surrounding her business permit. He describes the situation as “Abby being Abby.” 

“The report is very clear that the person I interacted with understood I was there in my capacity as a business owner, not a councillor,” Besharah said.

“The integrity commissioner stated that they didn’t receive any perception, or had any perception, that I acted in a way to use my position to affect the outcome or intimidate.” 

Had La Ronge Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Steve Brown not approached him about the interaction the employee said he would not have made a formal complaint.

Besharah has appointed a proxy to deal with her coffee shop negotiations going forward and communications with staff will go through the CAO.

On October 12 council agreed with the report’s recommendations and no material facts are in dispute.  Besharah has not yet had the opportunity to voice her side of things in council and said she looks forward to doing so.

“Transparency is key. I’m glad the high standard has now been set for all councillors going forward. Poor behaviour by councillors should be called out,” Besharah said.

“I believe this is a really good opportunity to assess and reflect for everybody on council.”

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