Statement from CAO George Vadeboncoeur:
“Over the past six weeks, there has been a great deal of misinformation, misinformation and speculation about issues involving the former fire chief and a former subordinate, including allegations of a cover-up. This stemmed from a news report that contained inaccurate information.
The city’s position is that personnel matters are confidential and we do not comment on them. This is to protect the employees concerned. Bearing in mind our promise of confidentiality, since there is so much shared speculation, I feel compelled to address this particular issue.
The following has been prepared with the assistance of the city attorney (Dunsmore Law) who conducted the investigation into the harassment complaint.
A recent headline in a local publication claims information was withheld from the council when deciding on the fire chief in 2020.
This is an error.
A harassment complaint was submitted to Human Resources, an outside attorney was engaged to investigate, and legal advice was provided. As CAO, I made the decision on the status of the fire chief based on the findings of the investigator’s report and legal advice from two lawyers.
I have shared the findings of the investigation, the legal options based on the findings, and my decision with counsel. I asked for the council’s agreement with my decision.
Only three people reviewed the investigator’s report, the CAO and the two lawyers who provided advice to the CAO.
“From my perspective as a city attorney, it was only necessary to share the investigator’s findings with council. It was enough for them to know that both parties to the complaint had had a full and fair opportunity to participate and that their arguments had been duly considered. It was my job to ensure that a proper investigation had taken place and to advise you on your options as a decision-maker. It was your job to decide what to do, ‘ said attorney Ross Dunsmore.
Two legal opinions were obtained regarding the chef because I wanted to make sure I made the right decision.
‘Out of an abundance of caution, you also referred the report to another lawyer you and I held in high regard, also practicing labor law, and she issued an opinion, expanding on my opinion, after reviewing my opinion and the report ,’ said Dunsmore.
As CAO, I did not influence the investigation or the establishment of the facts. The use of the city attorney and outside investigator was partly done to shield myself and other city administrators from investigation, so it was done independently of the city. I received the facts of the report from the investigator and the city attorney. I acted on what the professionals found and the legal advice I received. I then exercised my statutory role.
“The chief executive and no member of council have been involved in the investigation in any way. The mayor was made aware of the status of the investigation, but knew nothing more than any other councillor,’ said Dunsmore.
The leader was disciplined because it was clear he had not followed city policies.
There was never a recommendation for the complainant’s dismissal. It’s not true. His job was maintained. Allegations that she was punished by the city for filing her lawsuit or that she was fired for cause are false. There was no cover-up.
“In one report, there was a reference to 140,000 images being investigated. Footage was implicated because some evidence was electronically recorded on cellphones and a computer. The investigator had to examine all this evidence as part of her investigation, before determining the facts. At the time she drew her conclusions, the number of images was not significant. Whoever reported the number to the press misinterpreted its relevance. The number of images was not a factor,’ said Dunsmore.
“To appreciate the process followed by the city, it is fundamental to promise all employees that, to the extent possible, complaints of harassment will be handled confidentially. Since many harassment complaints these days involve people’s perceptions of the conduct of others and do not result in termination decisions, there are often restrictions on the publication of information on relevant issues. In fact, many complaints would not be filed if the process was not expected to be confidential. Rarely are the facts of a complaint that has been investigated widely disclosed. There was no concealment,’ said Dunsmore.
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development received a complaint that the City’s harassment policy was outdated and a concern about harassment in the workplace.
An inspector attended the town hall and noted that the city’s policies on workplace harassment and violence needed to be updated as required by the legislation. He also ordered that staff receive training on the new policy and that it be reviewed annually. The new policy was approved by the board on August 18, 2022. Training is ongoing.
The inspector noted that the employer’s legal obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act is “to investigate reports of alleged harassment and report the findings of the investigation to the parties concerned (complainant and alleged harasser) and any corrective measures if necessary”. The City has fulfilled its responsibilities in this regard.