Calgary Coun. Sean Chu apologized after sending out, and later deleting, two tweets that berated a city employee over a presentation around a planned downtown bike lane.
Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu used Twitter to criticize Blanka Bracic, the transportation engineer with the city who has been briefing council on the plan to build the separated bike lane on First Street southeast.
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“This is nothing but BULL SHIT. 7St increased to 1160 cyclists per day? What was she on? The emperor continuously getting new clothes. Winter?” he posted.
He later posted a second tweet, in response to someone.
"U call this attack? U’ve a very thin skin, aren’t u? That’s not an attack, its just a ‘just telling the truth.’ U haven’t seen nothing yet."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he called the councillor after he found out about the tweets to say they weren't appropriate. Nenshi said he suggested Chu delete the tweets, which Chu did, and apologize.
"I don’t care about the profanity, I don’t use language like that, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is impuning the professionalism of a city employee, insinuating that she’s on drugs just because you disagree with what she’s saying and making a threat that you will attack her even further — these are not appropriate."
Chu later issued an apology.
"My comment on Twitter this morning was an error in judgment. I sincerely apologize," he wrote in a statement sent out Tuesday afternoon.
"My communication should have been more appropriate, effective and respectful. My comments regarding the cycling group were inappropriate and my intention was not malicious."
The councillor earlier referred to the plan to expand the downtown cycle track through Chinatown between the Bow River and the Talisman Centre as "madness."
Council voted Monday to put off a decision on the First Street section of the bike route until next month when it will examine the entire downtown cycle track plan as a whole.
Chu said the city needs better data on how many cyclists are commuting downtown, especially during the winter.
An issue of respect
Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott is unhappy about Chu’s cyber outburst.
He too said it's not so much the profanity, but that it appeared to violate a city policy requiring council members to treat each other and city employees with respect.
“That tweet crossed the line in how it referred to and called into question a city employee,” he said.
Pincott said he expects the matter will be discussed at the next city council meeting as a possible breach of the ethical conduct policy for council members.
Nenshi also said the tweets violated the policy.
“I was very proud in the previous council that we could have huge disagreements but then we would sit down and have lunch together and move on to the next issue," he said.
“I think that it would be important for council to be magnanimous on this, but it will also be important for the councillor to change his behaviour."
Calgary politics watcher Paul Fairie said it's unclear what talking about the issue further at council might accomplish.
“It's hard to know what could come out of it other than perhaps a more detailed apology. I mean, I don't think an education program would have too much of an effect either way or suspension from committee meetings,” he said. “If they really wanted to make the point, they could suspend Coun. Chu from committee work.”
It's not the first time Chu's conduct on Twitter has raised eyebrows. Earlier this year, he questioned the validity of climate change because Calgary is having an unusually cold winter.