Pickering Councillor facing 30-day pay cut for “bully” tactics on social media for Halloween Haunt
Published September 25, 2023 at 11:49 am
Participants to tonight’s Pickering Council meeting can expect some fireworks with controversial Councillor Lisa Robison facing a 30-day pay cut for “disingenuous and patently unfair” comments made to neighbours opposed to her storing a shipping container on her Rosebank property.
Robinson had been hosting a Halloween Haunt and Corn Maze at her residence (kitty-corner to Rosebank Public School) for a dozen years when she purchased a 20 x 8 x 8.5-foot container (in the same month she was elected to Pickering Council last fall) to store the animatronics that had outgrown her basement storage area.
She applied for a variance, completing the paperwork in April, with City Planning staff supporting the application if the shipping container were re-located to the interior side yard and moved back so that it would be flush with the front wall of the house.
Three residents spoke at the virtual meeting in opposition and a fourth resident sent in a letter, all in opposition to having a shipping container permitted as a permanent additional structure in the residential neighbourhood.
After some discussion, the Committee of Adjustment denied the application and within hours, the Councillor was on Facebook calling out the three residents who had attended the committee meeting.
“It is with great sadness that I announce that this years Robinsons Charity Halloween Haunt and corn maze will have to be cancelled,” Robinson posted. “A big Thank you to [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted] for your neighbourly kindness.”
Principles Integrity, which acts as Pickering’s Integrity Commissioner, called the post an “inappropriate attack against individual residents who had simply participated in a public planning process” in its subsequent report to Council, which will be debated at Monday’s meeting.
Robinson, who admitted to making the post, said she made the comment on her “private, personal” Facebook page that it is not open to the public, “to my friends and family with respect to not going ahead with my Halloween Haunt this year,” adding that she thanked the three named residents “for their neighbourly kindness”.
The Integrity Commissioner, however, considered her ‘thanks’ to be “sarcastic” and that the councillor blamed the residents for the loss of the annual event.
“There was nothing within her application, nor in the decision of the Committee of
Adjustment, which would compel her to discontinue the event (and) there is nothing in the evidence we reviewed to suggest that the three residents had contributed in any special way to the holding of the Halloween Haunt,” the Integrity Commissioner said in the report. “On a reasonable reading of the Facebook post, the respondent is blaming these three residents for causing the demise of her event.”
“The Committee’s refusal to allow the shipping container merely meant that she would have to continue to store items in her basement or source off-site storage. It had no bearing whatsoever on the on-site event which she has hosted annually for the past dozen years,” the report continued. “If she wishes to discontinue the event, that is certainly her prerogative, but to blame those who oppose the permanent location of a shipping container on her property for that decision is disingenuous, and patently unfair.”
The report declared that posting to her personal Facebook is not the “firewall” Robinson thought it was and chalked up the experience as a “rookie mistake,” in explaining why the recommendation was for a monetary penalty and not a broader sanction.
“If Lisa Robinson were just any homeowner who is disgruntled by the refusal of a
minor variance application, her conduct would be regrettable. As a Councillor it must be recognized as a bully tactic (and) it shows a flagrant disregard for the well-being of others.”
The Haunted House and Corn Maze has been a popular attraction for years (“This Halloween haunt and corn maze us bringing big scares” – CBC, 2021), with all proceeds donated to charities, including Rosebank Public School and Sick Kids Hospital.
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