By Trevor Busch
A fire in the belly of Taber town council to pass judgement on one of their own over online comments regarding the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire would appear to have been snuffed out.
Tom Moffatt, the Town of Taber’s Information Technology Manager and a former Lethbridge NDP candidate, rose to infamy in early May when he took to the social media airwaves on his private Twitter account to post: “Karmic #climatechange fire burns CDN oilsands city.”
The tweet was later deleted but it was screen captured and shared widely across the Internet.
The controversy prompted a negative public relations backlash for Moffatt, the Town of Taber, and the provincial NDP.
Following this, in what was viewed as a reactionary move by many, the town’s IT manager was suspended in a special decision by town council on May 6, pending the outcome of an investigation into his comment.
At the time, the decision attracted national media attention, although council provided no official statement nor offered any insight into the actions taken by the town.
That trend toward a lack of communication appears to have continued, as it has been confirmed that Moffatt’s suspension has since been lifted and he is now back on the job at the Town of Taber.
“Mr. Moffatt is back at work with the town,” said CAO Greg Birch, speaking at town council’s June 13 regular meeting. “Beyond that, we’re treating it as a private human resources issue. Without going into any extenuating circumstances, he is back working.”
When also questioned during the media inquiries portion of the June 13 meeting, as a collective body council officially refused to comment regarding the lifting of Moffatt’s suspension or the outcome of a social media investigation by town administration.
Birch, who outlined that the Town of Taber is now treating the matter as an internal personnel issue — despite the municipality publicizing Moffatt’s suspension following council’s decision on May 6 — did not provide any details regarding the terms of the IT manager’s return to work, or if the town chose to censure Moffatt in any manner as a condition of his resumption of employment.
As a direct result of Moffatt’s social media comment reflecting negatively on the Town of Taber, at their May 9 regular meeting town council directed administration to revisit the Town of Taber’s code of conduct, professionalism, and social media policies, to be brought back to council for the June 27 regular meeting.
“In light of all the poor publicity over all this information, and what social media’s response is to a code of ethics and professionalism for town employees, I think probably as a council we need to address it,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas on May 9.
Moffatt is currently a Lethbridge resident and does not reside in Taber.