The City of Yellowknife has taken the extraordinary step of deactivating all of its public security cameras in the wake of misconduct allegations against a senior manager.
Municipal enforcement boss Doug Gillard is accused by several former employees of using the cameras to watch women he considered attractive. The allegations are contained in a series of interviews and recorded legal depositions, covering a number of years up to 2014, published by the CBC and Northern News Services since Sunday.
“Through this week’s media coverage, separate allegations have been made that City staff misused City security cameras,” read a statement issued by the City on Wednesday afternoon.
“Since 2014, there have been no complaints raised regarding the misuse of security cameras. However, due to the fact that the possibility of this behaviour does exist, the City has taken immediate steps to deactivate all public security cameras, effective immediately.”
Sixty of the City’s 64 security cameras have been switched off to comply with the order. Four cameras remain in operation “for the safety and protection of our staff and contractors” in areas which are not accessible to the public – as an example, one of the four is a camera attached to machinery at Yellowknife’s municipal garbage facility.
Also on Wednesday, the City urged residents with concerns over inappropriate behaviour by City staff to contact Sheila Bassi-Kellett, Yellowknife’s senior administrative officer.
“Accusations made in the media do not provide the City with an opportunity to investigate and make improvements,” the same statement continued, though internal emails from 2014 leaked to media suggest a former employee who did follow the City’s channels found the process to be frustrating and inadequate at the time.
New camera policy
In an interview with Cabin Radio published on Monday, Bassi-Kellett said things have changed at the City since she took over in March 2017. She listed a range of improvements to City policy and procedure and went on to defend Gillard’s continued employment, on the grounds that his behaviour had significantly improved since being confronted over several allegations in 2014.
“People can change,” she said, adding that appropriate internal action had been taken, without providing details.
At least one former employee, in alleging Gillard misused cameras, said they had initially joined in before regretting their involvement.
The City says its cameras “will not be reactivated until a comprehensive public policy guiding use of security cameras is developed and put into place.” No timeline for this was provided. In other interviews, the City has intimated that tracking technology is now used to observe how the cameras are controlled and by whom.
The City also once again stated that no security cameras exist at the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, contrary to the leaked testimony of one former employee.
City councillor and deputy mayor Adrian Bell plans to call for an independent inquiry into the allegations when council next meets. Gillard has not commented since the allegations were made public.