A former City of Yellowknife municipal enforcement officer believes the departure of two senior staff members will significantly damage a workplace harassment inquiry.
The City has triggered an independent inquiry into allegations against municipal enforcement boss Doug Gillard, dating to 2014.
Dennis Kefalas and Dennis Marchiori were the City’s senior administrative officer and director of public safety, respectively, at the time of the alleged incidents being investigated by the inquiry. As such, they occupied the two direct levels of seniority above Gillard and would have played a key role in handling any complaints against him or incidents of inappropriate behaviour.
Both men have resigned, citing unrelated grounds, and will depart City Hall within four days of each other, in mid-May.
Neither has suggested they will not cooperate with the inquiry, but the inquiry possesses no power to compel former staff to give evidence. Present staff would be obliged to take part in the course of their duties. The City says it’s up to the independent investigator, Vancouver law firm Miller Thompson, to decide who is approached.
‘A robust inquiry’
“There’s going to be a big impact,” said Doug Norrad, who worked with all three men as a municipal enforcement officer for a number of years – though he left his job in acrimonious circumstances.
Norrad was accused of stealing from parking meters by Gillard in 2011. He denied the allegation and an RCMP investigation found no evidence a crime had been committed, according to documents provided by Norrad.
In November 2012 the City fired Norrad, in part relating to fallout from that investigation. His subsequent wrongful dismissal suit was settled out of court, for a sum he puts at $140,000.
Asked if Kefalas and Marchiori would have been central to the independent inquiry, Norrad replied: “Absolutely,” adding he believed they were exercising a metaphorical “get-out-of-jail card” by departing City Hall.
Both Kefalas and Marchiori gave other, personal reasons for leaving.
“But the two of them resigned to take other jobs within two weeks of each other, knowing the inquiry is coming up,” continued Norrad.
Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the City’s present senior administrative officer, told Cabin Radio she is “looking forward to a robust inquiry” when asked for her view of the inquiry’s health, in light of recent events.
“The mandate laid out, we really believe will give us some good results that make sure due diligence was done and we can learn going forward.”
She added: “I have full faith in Miller Thompson.”
Asked if Kefalas and Marchiori would have been vital to processes the inquiry is examining, Bassi-Kellett said: “All of that stuff is documented.”
The inquiry will begin “imminently” according to Bassi-Kellett. She said Miller Thompson is updating its methodology for the inquiry to add a section regarding alleged misuse of security cameras.
‘Lots I could say’
Norrad’s wrongful dismissal suit and its outcome were subject to a confidentiality agreement until earlier this month, when he described the events to the Yellowknifer newspaper in contravention of that agreement. He says he had the support of Bassi-Kellett in doing so, and adds he has yet to be directly contacted by City lawyers since that article appeared on April 17.
Norrad is unsure if he will be called upon by the independent inquiry to provide evidence. He expressed disappointment that, in his view, problems at City Hall are still being “covered up.”
“I have a feeling I’m not going to be questioned by the investigator,” said Norrad.
“Gillard was my best friend for many years. There’s lots I could say but then I’d be attacking the person. That’s not fair and that’s not what I’m doing. This is about being held accountable.”
Earlier this week, city councillor Niels Konge told CBC the resignations of senior staff gave Bassi-Kellett an opportunity to “try to put together a team of her people” at City Hall.
Asked if she saw those resignations in that light, Bassi-Kellett told Cabin Radio: “As a seasoned senior manager, I know that it is really great when you have the ability to have a team that understands the vision that you bring.
“I am looking forward to being able to do that fully.”