A summary report of the investigation into the Office of the Clerk of the legislature concluded that the office is not a toxic workplace and that three of four key allegations by complainants against clerk Tim Mercer were “not founded.”
Quintet Consulting Corporation, hired by the NWT legislative assembly earlier this year, reviewed accusations against Mercer for allegedly overseeing a toxic workplace and investigated specific complaints brought forward by chief electoral officer Nicole Latour, Tu Nedhe Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, research adviser April Taylor and an anonymous fourth individual.
The first part of the summary report presented to MLAs on Thursday morning shows that while the workplace is “divided” and has “a lack of unity,” it is not “in an overall sense, a toxic or poisoned one.”
However the report points to “views and experiences” of people having worked closely with the office presenting “important problems,” including unresolved conflicts and unmanaged labour relations issues; concerns related to communication across the organization; difficult interactions with MLAs; clerks being viewed as favoured, leading to feelings of inequity for other staff; and conflict of interest and preferential treatment related to staffing.
“Based on the disparate views and experiences of some staff, these individuals likely perceive it to be a poisoned or toxic workplace,” the report states.
The latter portion of the 25-page document summarizes issues raised by the four complainants, noting Latour accusing Mercer of abusing his power by trying to exert control over the legislature’s Board of Management and by doing so, the entire legislative assembly. She also accused him of trying to negatively impact her office and of trying to remove her from her position because of her Indigenous ancestry.
The report states, however, that none of Latour’s accusations stood up to scrutiny. It points out that Latour never made a case “that Mr. Mercer’s conduct related to her race or any other prohibited ground of discrimination.”
Taylor, who as a legislative assembly research adviser alleged that Mercer “denied her various opportunities and requests and negatively influenced her managers,” was not found credible in her complaints either, the report concluded.
Norn, who on Feb. 15 held a news conference where he complained about “an ethical rot” under Mercer at the legislature, accused Mercer of lashing out when MLAs tried to counter his perceived exertion of control and influence on the assembly. This was also deemed “not founded.”
However, a fourth unnamed person who accused Mercer of a breach of confidentiality “related to previous investigations,” was considered to have a legitimate grievance.
“After careful consideration of all the evidence gathered, much of which was undisputed, it was determined that the complaint of the fourth complainant was founded,” the report reads. “Mr. Mercer’s conduct was found to be inconsistent with the applicable code of conduct and with the letter and spirit of the confidentiality requirements of the harassment-free and respectful workplace policy.”
Next steps and clerk’s office action plan
MLAs received a copy of the report Thursday morning via email from acting clerk Glen Rutland, who explained the next steps that have to be taken to respond to the report’s findings.
He said that the Board of Management is requiring the Office of the Clerk to create an action plan that is to be shared with MLAs and the public.
Rutland also said the law clerk is expected to review the investigation portion of the review to seek where redactions should be made so that the full report can be released publicly.
“The investigation report includes personal information of participants and third parties who were not participants,” he noted.
Katrina Nokleby, MLA for Great Slave, said in an email that she had positive interactions with Mercer and his ability to bring members together.
“In my experience, I found the clerk to always be very helpful and supportive,” she said. “It was apparent he has a goal of uniting MLAs and working towards the greater good of the assembly. This was particularly noticeable when I was a minister and the clerk worked towards facilitating the relationships between me and the regular MLAs.”
Mercer issued a statement on Thursday afternoon stating that he was pleased with the findings.
“The six-and-a-half months since the above-noted allegations were made have been difficult, not only for me but for my family, close network of friends and the staff of the legislative assembly,” he said. “I am pleased with the findings of the investigation and accept them fully… I look forward to putting this matter behind me and moving on with my career in a productive way.”