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Parks manager in Kootenay, B.C., quits after months of harassment over pandemic closures

The mayor of Kimberley, B.C., says residents’ frustration with the closure of local recreational facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse for them to bully the city’s parks manager — who has recently resigned.

Brett Clark worked as the East Kootenay city’s manager of parks and facilities for more than three years until he quit last week.

Harassment against Clark and other city staff have been escalating since the Kimberley Aquatic Centre and Marysville Arena ice hockey rink were closed indefinitely in March due to challenges maintaining physical distance and not enough staff for proper sanitizing and contact tracing.

The former parks manager was cursed at and hung up on by anonymous callers, yelled at by people who stopped by his office, and berated at restaurants and grocery stores, according to the City of Kimberley.

 

“Somebody was actually following him around the store to try and make their point again and again, and the store manager actually had to remove that individual from the store,” Mayor Don McCormick told Sarah Penton, host of CBC’s Radio West, about Clark being accosted in a supermarket. “It’s just incredibly selfish behaviour that defies logic.”

McCormick says Clark’s resignation was “somewhat under duress.”

“He just decided he had had enough [harassment].”

In its announcement Nov. 2, the city praised Clark for developing safety plans to reopen city hall in June and the Civic Centre Arena ice hockey rink in September. 

Over the last two months, the city council voted to keep the doors of aquatic centre and Marysville Arena shut until the provincial public health orders change.

Kimberley’s city council decided to keep the Kimberley Aquatic Centre closed due to challenges maintaining physical distance inside. (Submitted by the City of Kimberley)

McCormick says city staff shouldn’t bear the brunt of public criticism for executing orders from politicians.

“We elected officials expect to get a little bit of blowback on decisions that are being made. We’re kind of wired for that. But staff aren’t.”

There was only one COVID-19 case in the city of 7,000 as of September, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, but McCormick says that doesn’t justify residents’ demand for reopening unsafe facilities. 

“I appreciate that there’s a lot of COVID fatigue going on,” he said. “But that’s no excuse for selfish behaviour that says ‘I need to keep things the way they always have been.’ “

McCormick said the city doesn’t want to take any action that could jeopardize the low number of cases. 

Kimberley Aquatic Centre, Marysville Arena as well as Centennial Hall are the only city facilities that remain closed. 




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