emails show Abbotsford manure dump on homeless was team effort
Reports last month that City of Abbotsford workers had deliberately spread chicken manure on a homeless person’s camp brought a veritable poo-nami of criticism down on Abby officials, from the mainstream media, homeless advocates, and even bloggers. The City action occurred June 4th across from the Salvation Army building on Gladys Avenue. Hours after it became news, and the sh*t hit the fan, city manager George Murray publicly took responsibility for the action, and apologized. Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman also apologized. Two days later, city staff removed the manure.
The impression was of an ill-thought-out, knee-jerk reaction to some public complaints, by one lone city official. Well, the sh*t continues to fan out; several news organizations have obtained internal emails showing the manure dump on the homeless encampment was, in fact, a team effort, coordinated between several Abbotsford City Managers, as shown by this item in The Province newspaper.
According to this post on the CBC Web site, internal emails obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) through an access to information request show that managers from the city’s bylaw, forestry and parks departments were all involved.
The online magazine Abbotsford Today, has this post, and several other follow-ups, on email they obtained from James Arden—acting director of park services for the city—in which he told city manager George Murray, “I followed up with my team and the Salvation Army staff were talked to by By-Law as to our plan with the fertilizer and were in agreement.” The email was sent on June 4, the same day as the manure incident. The Salvation Army has been quoted in every item as denying they had fore-knowledge of the manure dumping. Patricia Cuff, Salvation Army’s B.C. divisional director of public relations, is quoted as stating yesterday (Wednesday): “The email is inaccurate. We’d never give an OK to treat the homeless with anything less than dignity and respect.”
Murray acidly replied to Arden’s email indicating the Sally Ann had been informed of, and agreed with the action:
“This is quite often what happens in our business. Groups are 100 percent behind us … right until it turns to s—t (rather than manure).”
One of the email exchanges obtained, and reported by the CBC, has a city official named Shawn Gurney questioning the actual target of the manure dump: “I believe the intent had nothing to do with homeless folks. I believe it was done to deter acts of prostitution and drug use occurring in view of the public under the tree.” In the June 6 email Gurney also suggests that the city manager took the fall for his decision, writing, “I own the decision and George [Murray] is owning it for the entire City team.” No City of Abbotsford officials are known to have been disciplined over the manure action, but, according to this item from The Vancouver Sun, two senior Abbotsford managers—economic development manager Jay Teichroeb, and bylaw enforcement manager Gordon Ferguson—have since left their jobs.
The CBC Web site reports how two other Metro Vancouver cities—Port Moody and Surrey—have also used the chicken manure tactic to drive out the homeless, and have been forced to apologize following public outrage. Click the image to enlarge it.
Updated January 12, 2017 to include the word “parody” to the image, following a copyright complaint on behalf of the City of Abbotsford.