A Maple Ridge city councillor who fell asleep in front of her computer during an online meeting of council wants people to know her fatigue was health related.
A city council video of Coun. Kiersten Duncan falling asleep was posted to the Protecting Maple Ridge Public Page on Facebook on Nov. 10.
“This is live, happening right now,” said the narrator, Jamie Seip, as Duncan’s eyes close. “Money well spent on a councillor.”
In the video, Duncan’s eyes close, and she appears to startle into wakefulness.
He narrates with comments: “She’s out. Oh, there she’s back. Gone. This is a professional? Go to bed Kiersten.”
It has been viewed almost 1,000 times.
There was speculation online that health conditions and medication were behind her problems staying awake. Duncan was in an automobile crash in May of 2019. She said that was not the issue.
“I had chest pains, and I was up all night,” said Duncan. “I had no sleep for almost 48 hours.”
She agreed the video was embarrassing, and offered her own explanation and an apology on Facebook.
“I want to first start by thanking those that reached out to ask if I was okay. The answer is ‘yes.’ But I am very overtired and stressed. Last night I was admitted to the hospital at 3 a.m. because I was experiencing chest pain and did not get home until late morning, at which point my focus was to finish prepping for the [council’s] workshop meeting. I spent the rest of the day preparing for council and trying to get a little sleep, but the pain in my chest has made it very difficult to get any restful sleep. I sincerely apologize for being overtired tonight and will do my best to rest up so I’m strong and revitalized for the next meetings. Thank you again for your concern, compassion, and understanding. As always I greatly appreciate your support.”
Duncan said she would like to keep her medical history private, but added sometimes working in public life that is difficult.
There was criticism of the video online on the Protecting Maple Ridge page. Seip responded by saying it was not the first time, claiming he has recorded others that he didn’t post. He called Duncan sleeping at council meetings “the elephant in the room.”
“You do realize councillors are responsible for making hundreds of millions of dollars worth of decisions for the community,” he said.
“I wish only for her happiness and health to improve.”
Following the release of this story, Mayor Mike Morden weighed in on social media.
”On this matter, there have been some comments and assumptions made that warrant some clarification of the facts,” Morden said.
“Firstly all council members are elected and are not employees, or entitled to protection under the Workers Compensation Act, however, elected officials are fortunate to receive access to some health care benefits as elected officials. Mayor and council are obligated to comply with the WorksafeBC legislation regarding a respectful workplace for management and employees,” he elaborated.
“Second we all have duties, rights and obligations as established by legislation and our Council Conduct Bylaw, which include privacy and duty to maintain confidentiality, hence why no officials have responded to public questions and concerns because they are not permitted.”
Morden said that in this case only one member has that right to comment, and that person has made public statements of clarification “now as well several times in the past.”
He provided a link to the 16-page Council Conduct Bylaw, which he said compiles related legislation and adds further clarity on duties, responsibilities, and accountability mechanisms.
“I draw to the public’s attention S.8 which addresses medical provisions, covers privacy of any individual member of council, and as noted S.15 requires confidentiality.”