Home Workplace News ‘Toxic’ work environment led to mass councillor resignation in Armstrong, Man.

‘Toxic’ work environment led to mass councillor resignation in Armstrong, Man.

by Local Journalism Initiative
By Dave Baxter | Winnipeg Sun

The work environment in one Manitoba rural municipality had become so toxic that the community was better off temporarily having no municipal council at all, said a former councillor after a mass resignation last week.

“It was toxic, and I could not continue to work under those conditions any longer, it was so bad that it was also not in the best interest of the RM for council to be working in those conditions,” Pat Stein, a now former councillor, said in a phone interview on Tuesday morning.

Last Tuesday, Stein was one of four municipal councillors who abruptly resigned their positions with the RM of Armstrong, essentially leaving the Interlake community located about an hour north of Winnipeg without local leadership.

Stein says there has been a “toxic” atmosphere in the RM since the 2022 municipal elections, and last Tuesday she, Paul Humeny, Ted Sumka, and Brent Dziadek all resigned, in what she said was a “coordinated” action.

She said eight RM employees have also quit since 2022 because of the work environment.

“The toxicity started almost immediately in 2022,” Stein said. “It saddens me that good council members who love to serve their community are forced to step down in order to put a halt to the toxic work environment.

“If council would have continued in this manner I feel it would not have been in the best interest of our RM. I love this community and I want to see it do well, but it simply could not do well the way things were going.”

The RM does have a code of conduct for dealing with workplace issues, but Stein said it was decided by the four council members who quit that they would get no help from that code of conduct, because she said “when it’s not adhered to, it becomes a long, expensive and drawn out process.”

Stein did not want to comment on what issues or persons were causing the toxic environment she describes, but did admit the issues were with other members of council not with anyone in administration.

“The issues are definitely with council, but I am not going to point fingers at any individuals at this time,” she said.

Council now has just two sitting members, Reeve Kate Basford and councillor Allen Pfrimmer. There will be a by-election for all seats on council, as Manitoba’s Municipal Act requires a minimum of three elected officials for a council to function, and that a council be dissolved if it has less than three council members.

RM of Armstrong CAO Nancy Howell said in an email that the community will now look to the province for guidance and to help them keep up with day-to-day operations as they await a by-election.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Minister of Municipal Relations Ian Bushie assured Armstrong residents that day-to-day operations and the services they rely on will not be affected.

“At the end of the day it’s about continuity, and I don’t anticipate residents really noticing anything changing,” Bushie said.

Bushie said the province will appoint a temporary administrator to ensure the municipality’s operations continue. He said council will be dissolved and the province hopes to hold a by-election by the end of the month.

Bushie said he was not aware of what specifically prompted the resignations, but said there will be “conversations” to figure out what happened and why, and how municipal codes of conduct could be used to prevent these types of situations.

Basford and Pfrimmer did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

You may also like

About Us

HR Law Canada is dedicated to covering labour and employment news for lawyers, HR professionals and employers. Published by North Wall Media.