November 9 General Committee / Workplace Harassment Update
Updated: Oct 2, 2021
So, many have been asking “what happened?” with the workplace harassment case Monday night. And… well, for the longest time, none of us really had a clue. And now that the video of the 5pm General Committee meeting has finally been posted… well, it answers the question “what did they actually vote on at Council?”, but it sure as heck raises A LOT MORE questions!
The first concern, as we noted in our weekly Council Preview, was that there had been no public video link provided for the General Committee meeting. As it was listed as “Presentation re: Confidential personal information and solicitor-client privilege matter - Workplace Investigation” (note how the harassment claim has been minimized in the wording?), it’s understandable that the public would not be able to view the in camera portion of the meeting, but they should have been able to see the vote to go in camera, and the vote on the motion after coming out. You will note that a link to the video is still not available on the city’s Legistar site, but can only be found at https://youtu.be/tlxmGNl1qew, if you know what to look for. The video wasn’t available on Youtube until Tuesday afternoon (long after the City Council meeting at which the vote was ratified).
Score F for transparency.
So, by the time of the 7pm City Council meeting, nobody in the public knew anything about the 5pm General Committee meeting (as they should have). Which made it very frustrating and confusing when Council voted on the General Committee Report – but it was not stated what the GC motion (that they were now adopting) had been, nor was it available in the Legistar meeting notes or agenda. Even the mover, Deputy Mayor Ward, seemed confused what the motion was at first, confirming with the clerk whether it was to receive or adopt the report. The vote was to adopt the report, although no mention of what that was. And then the motion passed unanimously. Yes. Unanimously – as in, everyone voted yes.
Which is where the frustrating and confusing part comes in, because this report was dealing with the workplace harassment matter, and the only item on that General Committee agenda had been a presentation on the case.
Keep in mind what we DO know:
1. The case is about the alleged harassment by a Councillor upon a staff member.
2. On all previous votes regarding this case, Councillor McCann withheld his vote (follow the bouncing ball).
3. Amendment #1 to the motion regarding this item specifically included “…that this information on alternative action and related risks only be circulated to members not directly associated with the matter.”
So even if the natural assumption from #2 were incorrect, and it is another Councillor who is the respondent, there was a very obvious conflict taking place. As far as anyone was aware at that point, whichever Councillor WAS directly associated with this matter was nevertheless allowed to vote on the matter – so had either been privy to the confidential information they should not have received, or were voting “blind”, or had forgotten and voted in error. Either way, the Chair/Mayor should have reminded said member of the conflict, and that person should not have been allowed to vote. Why did the Mayor not follow this standard procedure?
Another interesting piece of information did get revealed shortly after this vote, during discussion over Councillor Harvey’s direct motion to change the reporting deadline in the Code of Conduct from 6 weeks to 6 months after an incident. If you watch https://youtu.be/tlxmGNl1qew, at 27:00 Deputy Mayor Ward mentions that he’s never heard of a case where the 6 week deadline had proven to be a problem. “Have we had any case where somebody waited more than the required time to put a request in for an Integrity Commissioner investigation?” Staff confirms they are unaware of any such case existing, although would defer to Ms. Craig for her confirmation.
ERGO: The reason for the Integrity Commissioner not investigating this complaint is NOT due to the complainant being late to file it. (As some had been previously implying.)