EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter was sent to Summerland's mayor and council and supplied to The Herald by the author. Due to its length, it was not published in letters to the editor (print edition) but is included online upon the author's request. An abridged letter appears in the print edition.
To Mayor and Council; 20 July 2020
I feel that the actions and conduct of Summerland Mayor Toni Boot was unprofessional, uncalled for and incredibly inappropriate on Saturday, 18 July 2020 at approximately 12:35 p.m.
Toni and friends entered my store and requested to see me. I was on my 30 minute lunch break and physically not in the store. Toni bullied one of my staff to immediately call me to insist that I return to the store as she stated “I am the mayor”. She made them call a second time displaying extreme hostility, again announcing she was the mayor and abusing her power as such. When my employee advised that I would be available around 1300, Toni and friends left the store for about 10 minutes.
When I returned to the store I was blindsided by Toni, 2 friends and the media. Obviously orchestrated and well planned. A professional representative of council would have called in advance for a meeting.
I requested a one to one discussion in my office, but Toni refused. At that time I felt her goal was to embarrass and lecture me on the sales floor in front of customers and staff. I managed to have the group move to our storage room causing congestion and they ignored to respect social distancing.
I was accused by Toni and then in the media of perpetuating racism It is not illegal to sell these bandanas and I was frazzled by this incident. I did not appropriately explain how these particular bandanas were in the store. In April and May we sold over 2500 bandanas of various patterns and designs. They were being used for making masks due to a shortage of personal protective equipment. They were not specifically ordered. I asked my supplier to send every bandana available in his inventory which included the ones in discussion. The confederate bandanas were not even available for sale when Toni entered the store on Saturday. They were pulled from our inventory once the incident happened on Thursday, 16 July 2020.
The mayor was given the bandanas at her request. She did not disclose what she was going to do with them. Unfortunately I thought she just wanted to be sure they were taken out of circulation. However, another well planned course of action pursued as she sat outside our store and started to cut up the bandanas. Obviously a photo opportunity and display of power and aggression. (Watch her body language on the video for confirmation). She and her friends each had scissor, an item not normally carried in a purse.
When I requested that she stop her action in front of my store she boldly stated that “I am the mayor and I can do what I want.”.
One of my staff was extremely upset by this episode, starting with the abusive bullying prior to my return to the store and the group action that followed. She was unable to concentrate on her job for the remainder of the day; was flustered and scared for what might happen to the wellbeing and safety of herself, staff and the store after this aggressive action. She is an amazing, dedicated caring person and should never have been on the receiving end of Toni’s outburst.
In Summerland we have a serious problem with bullying and have had two young students commit suicide. Our mayor bullied my staff. She should have conducted herself in a professional, respectful manor and should understand the consequences of bullying.
As stated in the Summerland Review on 18 July 2020 at 1107, “Boot told the man she appreciated him having the courage to make the apology. She also told him he is welcome to come back to visit the community, but added that displays of the Confederate flag are inappropriate in Summerland. However, I was accused: “You are perpetuating racism in our town and I will not stand for it.” (Summerland Review, 18 July 2020 at 1520.) I did nothing illegal or flaunt any racism within our store. Toni did not politely tell me that “confederate bandanas are inappropriate in Summerland”. They were an item for sale, although in reflection, was a poor decision. The man’s name from Alberta was withheld from the press as he did nothing illegal and therefore cannot be disclosed. However, Toni had no problem accusing me of racism, exposing my name and business to negative publicity and was not extended the same courtesy as the man that distastefully injected himself into the parade last Thursday. She successfully managed to harass and embarrass me, my staff, my business, our community and herself. While she was raging outside our store a customer asked “who is that crazy lady?” “Toni Boot, our mayor” was my response.
I am requesting a public apology from the mayor for bullying my staff and her very inappropriate actions at my store. I expect Toni to return to the store with the same media personal that she ambushed me with. I will also invite Global Okanagan News as they did an interview with me once the date is established.
To Toni, this issue is not about racism. This issue is about your lack of respect, professional conduct, abuse of power, bullying and poor judgement towards a local business and staff that strongly supports our community events financially and our community at large.
Your Dollar Store With More