Visitors to the town hall may soon see a code of conduct that governs their behavior when interacting with town employees.
This new “Visitor’s Code of Conduct” will be posted in all town locations, if it is formally adopted.This new “Visitor’s Code of Conduct” will be posted in all town locations, if it is formally adopted.
This week at the recommendation of Town Manager René Read and Human Resources Officer Jeannie Horne, selectmen voted unanimously to support the implementation of a visitor’s code of conduct that lists expectations for the public’s behavior when doing business with town employees at any town location.
According to Read, the code of conduct was created and adopted by the town of Acton. Duxbury learned about it because the two towns share the same employee assistance provider, AllOne Health. In Acton, the visitor’s code of conduct was developed in re- sponse to commonly experi- enced problems Acton town with the public and also to specific incidents of verbal abuse and physical threats that had happened to some workers.
Duxbury has not experienced the same problems as Acton, according to Read, but town employees have the right to a safe workplace, and he wants to be proactive in setting this policy to ensure both employees and the public understand how to behave.
“In Acton, there were a number of cases where the employees were treated hostilely by the public at large,” said Read. “I’m happy to say that that is not the case in Duxbury. But it is nice to have the support of the town behind the employees should they need it.”
The Visitor’s Code of Conduct states, “The town supports a workplace that is conducive to personal safety and security and is free from intimidation, threats, or violent acts. The town does not tolerate work- place violence, including the threat of violence from any- one who conducts business with the town.”
The code lists six items under the heading “expected conduct” for the public. It expects common courtesy and respect for both town employees and municipal facilities and it prohibits violence, lewd or offensive behavior, disturbances, disruptions, smoking, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Since 2009, town employees have been governed by a Professional Code of Conduct in order to provide a more positive work experience for both themselves and the public.
Horne said the Visitor’s Code of Conduct works with this professional code to set expectations for how the public must act. It also goes “hand in hand” with a workplace violence policy that is in place for town employees.
Selectmen were in support of the new code but Selectman David Madigan wondered how it would be enforced.
Horne said that employees will receive training regarding this new policy, but she added that the public must also be educated.
“The public needs to be notified that such a policy may be adopted and they must be educated as to what the expec- tations of the Code of Conduct are,” Horne said. “It will be hung in every department.”
The policy states that visitors who do not comply with the code of conduct may be asked to leave. Repeated vio- lations could result in perma- nent suspension of facility privileges.
Read said the code could be enforced by the police if necessary.
“We expect a certain amount of decorum” from vis- itors to Town Hall, Read said. “It could be enforced by the police but this is a little more genteel approach.”
Still Madigan expressed some doubts. “I just feel that we are legislating behavior,” he said. “It’s one thing to set expectations for employees, it’s another to do it for the public. Then again, if the public doesn’t behave properly, we’ll have to remind them.”
Selectman Ted Flynn said it was “unfortunate” that the town had to post behavior requirements for the public in all of its buildings.
“That should be common sense,” he said.
According to Read, before it is officially adopted, the code of conduct will be reviewed by town department heads.
“Following these meetings, I place to finalize this policy, introduce it to the public, post it in all municipal buildings, town facilities and properties, and work with AllOne Health to provide training to our employees this spring,” Read said.