Two complainants in an investigation of misconduct allegations against the NWT legislature’s clerk, and their lawyer, are criticizing the final report as a “by-product of a dysfunctional and corrupt system,” saying the findings are “largely irrelevant.”
On Thursday, the Legislative Assembly’s board of management released a summary of the workplace review and investigation completed by Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting. It concluded the clerk’s office is “divided” and lacks unity but is not toxic or poisoned in “an overall broad sense.” It also deemed that three of four allegations against longtime Clerk Tim Mercer, which included claims of bullying and harassment, were not founded.
In a press release on Friday, Steven Cooper, the lawyer who represented complainants Steve Norn, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, and NWT Chief Electoral Officer Nicole Latour – whose allegations were among those not founded – slammed the investigation. He said it “only glancingly addresses” his clients’ concerns, failed to focus on Mercer or look into allegations beyond the clerk’s office, and was “limited to an artificial short timeframe.”
“They have given us more questions than answers. It seems much of sound and fury signifying nothing,” Cooper was quoted as saying.
In February, NNSL reported that Latour accused the clerk of targeted harassment while Norn held a press conference calling for Mercer to resign and an independent investigation into what he called “credible and damning” allegations of abuses of authority and intimidation. Mercer denied wrongdoing.
Cooper noted the investigation summary minimized Norn’s complaint to a “single reference to Mr. Mercer lashing out when confronted with allegations of undue influence.” Meanwhile, he said, Latour’s “detailed descriptions of the ongoing manipulation and abuse that she suffered” were inaccurately reduced to a complaint of racism.
The release claimed Quintet failed to follow up with witnesses that both Norn and Latour said supported their allegations, or their evidence was ignored or dismissed. It also said Qunitet’s description of the number and nature of people who came forward was inaccurate.
According to Quintet, of the 14 people invited to be witnesses, eight participated in interviews, and six more people identified as having complaints against Mercer chose not to submit allegations.
“The report resolves nothing other than to embolden Mr. Mercer in his unparliamentary conduct and the good citizens of the Northwest Territories are once again left without conclusive accountability,” Latour said in the statement.
Cooper further criticized Quintet as lacking understanding of consensus government, the NWT’s affirmative action policy, cultural awareness, and northern experience. He questioned why the Ontario workplace consulting firm, rather than someone with northern expertise like a former northern judge, was hired to complete the investigation.
“Why not hire a group who can point out Fort Resolution on a map?” he queried.
The release also took issue with Mercer’s response to the investigation’s findings saying his “ill-considered public statement consists of gaslighting and mistreatment of fact” and that the clerk has not been “vindicated” nor are the complaints against him “without merit.”
In the written statement Mercer shared with Cabin Radio, the clerk said he was “pleased” with and accepted the report’s findings, saying “I look forward to putting this matter behind me and moving on with my career in a productive way.”
Finally, complainants extended their criticism beyond the investigation and Mercer to the territorial government as a whole, describing the clerk as “the symptom, not the disease.” Norn called for more MLAs to “stand up for democracy and pushback against the bureaucracy.”
“The antidemocratic behaviour that is tolerated by the elected members of this Assembly and so many of their predecessors has given rise to a civil service that intimidates, manipulates, and terrorizes those elected or appointed to represent the people of the Northwest Territories,” the release stated.
“It cannot be expected in the current environment that any steps taken to investigate and discipline those in high appointed office will be free of bias, will be independent, and will take into account the best traditions of a consensus form of democracy.”