Fall time in the city. Yellow leaves, municipal election campaign signs on neighbourhood lawns, and an ugly problem at city hall that remains unresolved since coming to light in January.
City council met behind closed doors on Thursday, where they discussed a “personnel matter” related to the findings of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the Municipal Enforcement Division. Its manager, Doug Gillard, is accused of, among other things, using city security cameras to ogle women and inviting subordinates to watch.
For three months, a city hall-hired investigator has examined – at taxpayers’ expense – sordid accusations cutting to the very heart of public trust. Out the other end comes a 289-word lawyerly memo absolving the city of much responsibility for this mess because no one outside the public safety department, which oversees MED, apparently knew about it.
It’s important to note that none of the allegations against Gillard have been proven although the investigator found that abuse of the cameras “more likely than not” occurred. It’s unlikely concrete proof will ever emerge beyond the word of several disgruntled former employees.
Unfortunately for Gillard, and the city, the embattled bylaw manager has not whispered a word publicly about these awful accusations after all these months.
No denial, no apology, only silence. This may prove strategically sound to keep his job but does nothing to cure the cancer that has eaten away his credibility as manager of municipal enforcement.
The longer he remains in his current position, the more the cancer will spread through his department, and to city hall in general.
The fact is, even if he were to suddenly claim innocence, his decision to remain silent while the public were outraged and disgusted makes him unfit for the job.
It’s worth pointing out despite the city’s initial panicked decision to try and contain the contagion by temporarily shutting down its security cameras when allegations first broke, it remains entirely unknown whether Gillard still has access to the cameras now.
The ambiguity of the present situation cannot endure. Technically, what happens to Gillard or anyone else in the municipal enforcement division is not up to council. Hiring, firing and disciplining city staff is the responsibility of senior administrative officer Shelia Bassi-Kellett.
But there is an election going on and incumbent councillors running for mayor and council – Bassi-Kellett’s current bosses – will soon be going door to door. They likely do not want to risk making Gillard and the ongoing status quo a campaign issue.
To be fair, this is not as easy of a case as it may seem. There is considerable potential cost liability to taxpayers to consider, not only in the case of Gillard should he be fired and choose to fight but also from residents who may have been spied on by city cameras.
Either way, there is bound to be an unhappy outcome. If the city feels it still doesn’t have enough of a case to dismiss with cause despite the investigation’s findings, the easiest solution might be to find Gillard another job, one that retains the salary and benefits but doesn’t have the title “manager” in it or has anything to do with video cameras.
Governments are full of embarrassments who were easier to pull from the limelight than put out to pasture. In any event, Gillard cannot stay in his current job if the city hopes to restore public trust.