Legislature clerk Tim Mercer “categorically” denied he harassed NWT chief electoral officer Nicole Latour.
Mercer was responding to allegations of “targeted malfeasance” made in a letter Latour wrote the premier three weeks ago. NNSL Media obtained a copy of the email Friday.
Chief electoral officer Nicole Latour declared “continued, targeted but deliberately muted, malfeasance” from Mercer in a formal complaint addressed to Frederick Black Jr., Speaker of the House and chair of the Board of Management, and 15 other recipients.
“As an Officer of the House, I am not protected in any manner and I have absolutely no recourse for mistreatment or continued persecution,” Latour wrote.
In a statement Friday evening, the Board of Management (BOM) confirmed their awareness of concerns raised in Latour’s letter “regarding the Board’s decision to seek expressions of interest for the position of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).”
Latour’s contract as CEO is set to expire on March 31, 2021. She is seeking to continue her 6.5 year tenure in the role and has expressed disappointment in the Board of Management’s decision to open the position for competition.
“Their decision has left me confused, feeling very much unsupported, and appears to have ignored my exemplary record attained during my tenure,” Latour wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to Premier Cochrane.
“Further to the BOM decision causing personal consternation, I submit that BOM’s decision assaults my personal integrity in a public arena and strikes at my continued livelihood,” she said.
(In 2018 NNSL Media reported on the requirement Latour re-apply for the position CEO at the end of her previous term: Chief electoral officer must re-apply.)
In her letter to the premier, Latour asserts that unlike other recent vacancies created by retirements in positions that are treated the same way by the legislature, including the languages commissioner, the information and privacy commissioner and the director of human rights, her chair is still occupied.
“Therefore, I suggest my position is not vacant,” she wrote.
Latour charges that premier did not respond to that letter.
In a statement dated Feb. 12, the Board of Management said it routinely seeks expressions of interest for these “statutory officer” positions and that it “rejects Ms. Latour’s suggestions that there was interference or improper considerations when reaching this decision.
“The Board of Management informed Ms. Latour of their decision to follow a fair and transparent process. The Board was aware of Ms. Latour’s desire to be re-appointed and encouraged her to apply.”
The statement did not address Latour’s allegations of harassment.
Mercer said that he became aware of the accusations for the first time Thursday afternoon.
He told NNSL Media that allegations had not previously been brought to his attention or that of the Board either formally or informally.
“With the exception of a brief, unannounced and pleasant visit to my office late last year, I have not communicated, directly or indirectly, with the Chief Electoral Officer since the 2019 election and categorically challenge her damaging accusation of harassment, “ Mercer wrote.
The clerk maintained that he made no comment to the Board or any member of the Legislative Assembly on Latour’s suitability for reappointment “and will challenge her to provide any evidence to that effect.”
He said he has fulfilled his duties with impartiality and objectivity.
Latour was not able to be reached for a reaction to the clerk’s comments or the Board of Management’s recent statement.
The BOM is a committee of MLAs chaired by Frederick Blake Jr., who in his role as Speaker is responsible for the employees of the legislative assembly. Also on the BOM are deputy premier Diane Archie, Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland, Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson and Municipal Affairs Minister Paulie Chinna.
The board also has four alternate members including Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, Deh Cho MLA Ronald Bonnetrouge, Lands Minister Shane Thompson and Justice Minister R.J. Simpson.
NNSL Media will follow up with the Speaker’s office when staff return Monday.
Note: A previous version of this story listed Minister Thompson as a regular member of the BOM. Cabinet spokesperson Jeremy Gibson Bird clarified Monday that Thompson is an alternate member and was “not involved in the decision-making process in regards to the Chief Electoral Officer.”