Harassment inquiry appears to exonerate City of Yellowknife
An independent inquiry into the City of Yellowknife’s handling of workplace harassment allegations in 2014 appeared to largely clear the City of fault.
The inquiry was established after allegations against municipal enforcement manager Doug Gillard came to light in early 2018, relating to the bullying of colleagues, inappropriate remarks, and misuse of the City’s cameras.
In March, the City retained Vancouver law firm Miller Thomson to conduct the inquiry, which focused on how the allegations were reported, investigated, and managed internally – essentially to see if the City could have done better. Interviews to assist the inquiry took place in Yellowknife in June.
A short summary of Miller Thomson’s findings, dated August 27, appeared on the City’s website this week with no accompanying news release. A page on the City’s website dedicated to the inquiry stated councillors had “acknowledged receipt of the findings” on Monday, implying the inquiry had been an in-camera item during one of that day’s two meetings of councillors at City Hall.
Miller Thomson’s summary reads: “It was determined that proper procedure was followed to investigate these allegations and to address the findings of the investigation. It was determined that while the process for communication as to the outcome of the investigation could have been improved upon, all interested parties were advised of the outcome.”
The summary went on to address allegations regarding the misuse of City cameras, which had not formed part of the inquiry’s initial scope but were later added to Miller Thomson’s mandate by councillors.
Gillard is alleged to have used the cameras to inappropriately observe female residents. (The law firm’s summary does not mention Gillard by name.)
In an unwieldy sentence, the law firm’s summary states: “In addition, an investigation into other allegations of workplace misconduct within the MED in and around 2014 that came to light in the fall of 2017 has revealed that it is more likely than not workplace misconduct related to the use of security cameras occurred within the MED at that time.”
In other words, the law firm says it found reasonable evidence the alleged misconduct took place.
The summary continued: “The investigation indicates that this misconduct was not reported to City staff outside of those involved with the Department of Public Safety and that there was no indication City staff outside the Department of Public Safety ought to have been aware of this misconduct prior to these allegations becoming public in the fall of 2017.”
In that sentence, the summary appears to suggest these misconduct allegations were reported to senior public safety staff but went no further, and that the investigation finds this to have been appropriate.
Only one department employee, the director, sits above the municipal enforcement manager.
The summary says Miller Thomson “confirmed the City took appropriate action immediately upon becoming aware of these allegations,” without stating what that action was, “and has taken measures to prevent similar misconduct in the future.”
Miller Thomson makes no comment as to whether Gillard should face any further action. However, in stating that proper procedure was followed regarding one set of allegations and appropriate action was taken regarding the other, the summary appears to leave no basis for any such action to be taken.
Councillor Adrian Bell said in an email to Cabin Radio: “Based on the finding that workplace misconduct related to security camera misuse more likely than not occurred, the City is seeking external legal advice on appropriate next steps.
“I do have some concerns about transparency and the limited information provided to the public in the final statement, but I understand that City administration and Miller Thomson are being careful to not expose the City to liability.”
In conclusion, the inquiry’s summary says the City has since put programs and procedures in place “to educate its staff as to how to deal with workplace misconduct.”
“Through the official inquiry,” it adds, “the City has also received recommendations as to how its policies and processes may be further improved upon to prevent and respond to harassment and other workplace misconduct.” Those recommendations were not included in the summary.
City staff have yet to comment on the document.
In July, councillors were told the inquiry would cost up to $40,000 to conduct. Gillard remains in post.