Victoria councillor violated code of conduct by signing letter, liking tweet: investigator

Victoria councillor violated code of conduct by signing letter, liking tweet: investigator
CHEK

An investigation into a Victoria councillor has found she did not make it clear enough when she was acting in her official role with the city versus acting as a private citizen, thus violating the city’s code of conduct.

In November, Susan Kim faced backlash for signing her name to a letter and liking a tweet.

The letter called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, and included a line that called out Jagmeet Singh for repeating “the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence,” which cast doubt on the testimonies of people on Oct. 7 that said people were sexually assaulted during Hamas’ attack on a music festival where hostages were taken.

Kim also liked a tweet that was published on Oct. 7 that said “Power to every Palestinian fighting for their freedom, and glory to every martyr who dies fighting. For every martyr that falls, a new one will rise.”

A few days after public backlash, Kim deleted her X account.

Watch the report below:

A member of the public, whose name is redacted in the report, sent this code of conduct complaint to Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto, who then turned it into an official code of conduct complaint.

“This is the first time [the code of conduct has] been tested,” Alto said to CHEK News in an interview. “The investigator that was selected has done an extremely thorough job, taking a significant amount of time doing so and I’m completely satisfied with the process that was undertaken.”

In her response in the investigation, Kim says she liked the tweet at some time in November and did not realize that it was posted on Oct. 7. Additionally, she said despite her Twitter name identifying her as a city councillor, she liked the tweet in her capacity as a private citizen.

For the letter, Kim said she signed it with her name and the title city councillor, but without including the city (which she says was added by another party) because she wanted to represent that she was an elected official but did not intend to sign the letter in her role with the city.

Marisa Cruickshank, the investigator found that in signing this letter and liking the tweet, Kim did violate the code of conduct by not making it clear enough she was doing this as a private citizen, rather than as a Victoria councillor.

David Black, an associate professor of communication and culture at Royal Roads University, says the distinction between private citizen and councillor was not clear enough.

“She identified herself as a city councillor and as such, that conflation, at least to those observing her was made,” Black said. “She seemed to be speaking on behalf of council rather than herself as a private citizen.”

CHEK News requested an interview with Kim, but was sent a written statement instead.

In the statement, Kim, through her lawyer, said she was pleased with the findings of the result.

“The findings of Ms. Cruickshank’s report maintained the threshold of what indeed constitutes personal opinion versus hate speech, which is crucial to uphold as we see growing polarization and instances of actual hate-based actions in our communities,” the statement says.

“We feel that the investigation has correctly highlighted that elected officials at any level of government may continue to feel strongly about global issues.”

“Ms Kim will be taking time over the next few weeks to revisit her digital presence in order to make clear her position as a private individual versus a public elected official. She remains committed to this work so she and her colleagues can maintain focus on her obligations as a City Councillor.”

The investigator does not recommend any sanctions against Kim, instead says that all councillors would likely benefit from training on the code of conduct and how to comply.

However, the decision of whether or not to issue a sanction rests in the hands of the councillors, who will be discussing the report in the upcoming council meeting on June 27.

Possible punishments within the scope of Victoria’s code of conduct bylaw range from a public apology to removal from appointed committees.

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