At its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, Kingston City Council will receive a report from the Integrity Commissioner regarding complaints filed against Councillor Peter Stroud.
According to the report from the Integrity Commissioner, the complaints against Stroud stem from two different incidents: The incident on Sunday, Jun. 23, 2019 involving Stroud chasing, stopping and blocking a Kingston Transit Bus repeatedly while he was riding his bike with his son in a child seat on the bike, and; a social media post by Stroud on Twitter protesting a Kingston Police cruiser parking in a bike lane.
“This Report responds to several complaints we received against Councillor Stroud between October 17 and 31, 2019 arising out an incident involving a Kingston Transit bus in June, 2019 and a social media post (tweet) authored by the respondent Councillor,” the report reads, noting that the Integrity Commissioner has opted to consolidate complaints on both matters into one report.
The report goes on to outline the “fair and balanced process” followed by the Integrity Commissioner’s investigation, which includes “reviewing the complaints to determine whether they are within scope and jurisdiction and in the public interest to pursue,” notifying and meeting with Stroud to allow him the opportunity to respond to the allegations, and conducting interviews with those with information relevant to the complaints. The report also outlines the Councillor Code of Conduct, as well as the role and responsibilities of the Integrity Commissioner.
“We find that the Councillor exhibited a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of others who were impacted by his actions during the event, including by disrupting and detaining the bus and its passengers on their route,” the report reads, noting that this conduct constitutes a breach of the Code of Conduct as “conduct and behaviour which falls well short of the ‘high standard of conduct’ expected of Members of Council, and fails to ‘promote public confidence and bear public scrutiny’.”
“We find that the Councillor’s conduct, aggressively blocking the bus, pounding on the windshield and yelling at the driver, represented an ‘attempt to intimidate, threaten, or influence’ the bus operator in proper operation of the bus,” the summary of findings in the report continues.
“While inappropriate, we do not find that the single tweet about the police car parked in a bike lane amounts to bullying or intimidation.”
The report then goes on to give a moment-by-moment account of the events of Sunday, Jun. 23, 2019, having explained that there are four cameras on standard Kingston Transit Express buses, and audio recording is captured near the driver. While many of the points have been outlined in Kingstonist’s past coverage of this incident, the report brings to light some aspects of the incident which were previously unknown, including the timestamps of each of Stroud’s interactions with the bus and its driver.
On the date in question, the report explains that Stroud was riding his bicycle with his pre-teen son in the rear carrier of the bike (both wearing helmets) in “an effort to get his son on board the 701 express bus.” Stroud’s son had an event to attend across town, and Stroud intended for his son to take the bus there.
“The Councillor headed north on University, then crossed the intersection at Brock and headed west along Brock to catch the bus at Brock and Alfred. As he rode along Brock, the bus pulled into the Alfred Street bus stop. It was 2:47 p.m.,” Section 22 of the Background and Context section of report reads.
The timing of this is important, as Kingston Transit has “worked hard over the past decade to improve the reliability and customer service of its operations,” the report reads, noting that Kingston Transit invites users to bring scheduling issues to their attention on their website.
The 701-2 express bus had a scheduled departure time from the Brock Street and Alfred Street Stop of 2:48 p.m. According to the report, at 2:47 p.m., a single passenger got off at the stop.
“As the Councillor approached the bus, which was standing at the bus stop letting passengers exit, and with his son on the back rack of his bike, the Councillor rode out of the bike lane and entered into the first traffic lane to come up behind the bus on the driver’s side of the vehicle. He then cut across in front of the bus and he came to a stop in the bike lane, beside the first bollard past the bus stop, some 30’ ahead of the bus,” the report reads.
“Dismounting quickly while still coming to a stop, the Councillor turned around to face the bus, raising his hand as he turned, but the bus had already begun to pull away from the bus stop. It was 14:47:55.”
Following this, both Stroud and his son got back on the bike, which Stroud then continued to ride along the bus route. The bus then made four stops, including at the Kingston Centre, before merging with traffic westbound along Bath Road, which consists of four westbound lanes with no designated bike lane.
“At 14:54:21, the bus pulled to a stop in the second lane, two cars back from a red light at the signalized intersection at Sir John A. MacDonald Blvd. At this moment, the Councillor – having cut across a park – caught up with the bus, riding in the right-turn lane. He pulled in front of the bus at 14:54:38 and dismounted his bike, placing it on its kickstand immediately in front of the bus in the lane of traffic,” the report recounts.
“The driver waved her arms, waving him off, but he ignored her, and gestured to her window, then to his iPhone. He proceeded to tap on the windshield, and from the bus video appears to be yelling at her, demanding she let his son on the bus, then with his fist, banged three times on the windshield, demanding she open the door. He then started taking pictures of her with his iPhone.”
During this time, Stroud’s son stood on the line between the right-turn lane and the second lane near the bus. At the same time, the bus driver contacted her supervisor about the incident.
“With the bus standing in the travelling lane, the driver concluded that she could not safely open the bus doors to allow passengers on or off,” the report reads.
“With the Councillor and his bike directly in front of her bus, she could not move forward.”
The bus driver’s supervisor indicated she would meet the bus in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, however, almost nine minutes later, Stroud climbed back on his bike and continued along Bath Road with his son towards the next stop.
Approaching the next stop at Bath Road and Portsmouth Avenue at 3:05 p.m., the driver could see Stroud – whom she did not recognize as a city councillor – waiting and the stop, along with two other people. As a caution, the driver only allowed passengers to disembark through the back door and did not open the front door of the bus. After this, Stroud rode away on his bike with his son.
What the bus driver was unaware of was that, while he was blocking the bus in the lane of traffic earlier, Stroud had called the Acting City Manager to report that the express bus had left the bus stop early, denying his son entry, the report explains. Stroud reached the Acting City Manager, who advised him she would get back to him, as “she did not realize he was standing in front of the bus blocking its passage,” according to the report.
The Acting City Manager called the relevant Commissioner at home and advised her of the issue. The Commissioner then contacted the Director of Transit, who contacted the Operations Manager, who contacted the Supervisor on duty.
“It is remarkable, and a credit to Kingston staff and the chain of command, that the call to the Acting City Manager was placed by the Councillor at 2:58 pm and by 3:07 pm – less than 9 minutes later – the Operations Manager had notified the Supervisor,” the report notes. “Incident Reports were completed following the driver’s shift and, the next morning, immediately following a review of the video by management, a decision was made to refer the incident to the Kingston Police.”
The report then outlines how the Kingston Transit driver followed the correct policies and procedures during the incident. The report does note that, if a similar incident occurred involving an employee of the City of Kingston, “it is doubtful that senior management would have referred the matter to the Police the next morning before engaging in some communication with either the employee – whose bizarre behaviour manifested itself in front of the bus – or with his/her supervisor to determine what other steps might appropriately be pursued, before forwarding the incident to the Police for follow-up.
“Reviewing the video, it is clear that the bus operator handled the entire event with professionalism and composure, exhibiting the utmost concern for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. It is evident that many passengers were inconvenienced. One bystander waiting at the bus stop was almost run over and had to jump out of the way when the Councillor zoomed past him on his bike, on the sidewalk in front of the bus stop,” the report reads.
It is also evident, reviewing the video, that the Councillor’s pre-teen child–although clearly not a toddler in a bike seat, as was implied in media reports at the time –was nevertheless placed in harm’s way as he stood waiting in front of the bus, between the right-turn lane and the live traffic lane, with cars passing in the turn lane between where he stood and the curb,” it continues.
“We find that the Councillor exhibited a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of others – including his own son – who were impacted by his actions during the event.”
The report also outlines that the Integrity Commission does not find the tweet regarding Kingston Police parking in a bike lane to be bullying or intimidation, but does call the tweet inappropriate, and notes that it “unfairly casts the entire police service in a negative light, broadcasting the critique in a public way.”
The report then details that the charges laid by Kingston Police against Stroud were disposed of in the fall of 2019 under the ‘Direct Accountability Program’ run by the Salvation Army. This meant that Stroud paid $200 to the Salvation Army, in lieu of performing community service, and provided a letter of apology to the bus operator.
However, that letter of apology was placed on file with the Diversion Program, and never made its way to the bus operator, or even to Kingston Transit, “through no fault of the Councillor,” the report states, noting that a “more preferable outcome” in the opinion of the Integrity Commissioner would have had more impact on those persons affected, “such as a direct apology, and community service related to bus operations.”
“This report, although stirring up feelings around an incident that the Councillor and the bus operator, along with senior management, would all prefer to put behind them, will allow the Councillor to be held accountable and will give the public closure around the incident,” the report reads.
“We hope it will also give the Councillor reason to pause and to reflect on his impulses before he acts on them – whether in regard to protesting perceived wrongs or communicating about them through social media.”
The report concludes to recommend that City Council pass the following resolution:
“That having been found to have breached the City of Kingston Council Code of Conduct, Councillor Stroud’s pay be suspended for a period of 30 days.”
This matter will come before Council on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Kingstonist will provide updates on what occurs following that meeting. As noted in the past, Councillor Stroud has instructed this reporter to “not contact me again,” so we are unable to provide any comment from the Councillor at this time.
Past relevant coverage: