A Ladner senior has been battling the Corporation of Delta for more than two years after being banned from the municipality's recreation facilities for life.
"This whole thing is just so unbelievable," said Tom Griffing, who feels he has been treated unfairly.
Griffing's story began in the fall of 2010 when he was swimming lengths in the pool at the Ladner Leisure Centre, something he had done thousands of times before.
He was part of the group that campaigned to have the pool built and as soon as it opened, he purchased an annual pass. Griffing, now in his 70s, has a variety of health problems so swimming is the only way he can exercise.
He swims six to seven times a week and was a regular at the leisure centre.
One evening he was swimming lengths when a lifeguard approached him. Griffing is also hard of hearing and since he cannot swim with his hearing aids in, he could not initially understand the lifeguard. Another man came over to assist and told Griffing the lifeguard was telling him he had to leave because someone told staff he was drunk.
Griffing denies being intoxicated and said he wasn't given a breath test. He told the lifeguard he was not drunk and continued swimming. A pool supervisor was called in and Griffing was told to leave.
"He basically ushered me out and I went," he said, adding he was told he had to see the pool manager the next day.
At that meeting he was told he was creating a safety hazard for staff and himself by swimming under the influence and was banned from all Delta recreation facilities, except for McKee Seniors' Recreation Centre where he sits on the board of directors, for three months.
After serving his ban he had to meet with the pool manager again. Finding a mutually agreeable time for the meeting proved difficult but one was scheduled for a couple of months in the future, Griffing said.
Believing he had served his time, and anxious to start swimming again, Griffing purchased a one-month pass and resumed his regular visits.
Three weeks later Griffing said staff told him the pass had been cancelled and he needed to meet with the pool manager. Griffing argued he had served his banishment and had been swimming for three weeks with no problems.
"I need the exercise and I reached over the counter to take a wristband," he said.
Staff called police and five officers arrived to escort Griffing out of the pool, he said.
He was told he was trespassing and the officers escorted him to the changing room and then out of the building. Again, Griffing said, he was accused of being impaired. However, he passed a breath test administered by one of the officers.
The next morning, he was given a one-year banishment from all Delta facilities.
Griffing said he tried to appeal the ban and wrote to council asking for a review of the policy, to no avail.
"I went home and I served the rest of the year," he said.
The banishment forced him to drive to other communities daily to swim and also prevented Griffing from being able to watch his grandson's hockey games.
Nearing the end of his second banishment, Griffing set up a meeting to discuss his return and was told he would have to sign a last-chance agreement in order to be allowed to use the recreation facilities again.
Griffing said he arrived at municipal hall earlier this year with a witness. At the meeting, he said, he was asked to review and initial Delta's code of conduct.
He initialed the document and was then shown the last-chance agreement, which outlined Griffing's previous banishments and states that if he does not abide by the code of conduct, or is disrespectful to staff, "he will be issued a permanent and irrevocable banishment from municipal recreation facilities."
Griffing said he was told that if he did not sign the agreement he would be banned for life. He said he had some issues with it, but signed the document with a notation that he was doing so under duress.
Griffing said the meeting was quickly terminated and he was told, essentially, he had not signed the agreement and was banned for life.
He said he went to the offices of the mayor and CAO but was told they would not discuss the matter because he had not "signed" the agreement.
Griffing wrote a letter to mayor and council, and investigated other avenues of appeal, but hasn't met with any success.
"Under normal circumstances I would not fight city hall but I've had enough," he said, adding he feels he has been bullied by Delta.
CAO George Harvie said Delta acted on a direct complaint from staff about Griffing's behaviour at the pool. He said it was perceived as a threat to staff safety.
Harvie said the municipality does not take banning patrons lightly.
"We make sure it's done for the right reasons," he said, adding it's done for the safety of employees.
"We will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour," he said, adding Delta's code of conduct is prominently displayed at the entrance of all recreation facilities.
Delta maintains anyone banished can appeal the decision, but Griffing said he tried to appeal with no success. He said he is dubious of the process because another municipal employee carries out the appeal instead of a third party.
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