A longtime senior GNWT manager was suspended for voicing complaints about House clerk Tim Mercer recently.
April Taylor is the second ranking GNWT official to come forward with complaints about Mercer's behaviour in recent days. NWT chief electoral officer Nicole Latour also filed a complaint about Mercer with the Board of Management committee of MLAs last week.
Taylor, a longtime senior manager with the Government of the Northwest Territories and legislative assembly advisor, complained late last week week of instances of harassment by Mercer since she was employed. A subsequent letter from Glen Rutland, deputy clerk, House Procedure and Committees, shows Taylor being suspended with pay until March for breach of confidentiality as a result.
In Taylor’s five-page letter dated Feb. 11, 2021, she complains to the Speaker of the House and the legislative assembly’s Board of Management instances of “abusive verbal treatment” and “berating” staff for “being the source of the toxic environment in this office” in December 2017 to two “professionally embarrassing and unnecessarily punitive” disciplinary hearings by Mercer regarding a disagreement with another employee.
Taylor also alleges being denied work-related travel and denial of advancement opportunities and facing retaliation for providing evidence in a separate harassment complaint against Mercer.
“Despite my fear of reprisal and my expectation that this may well cost me my job, I am determined to bring my concerns to you,” Taylor writes in the letter. “I can no longer subject myself to a toxic workplace. I also hope my public appeal to you will encourage others to come forward with their own stories.”
Taylor’s letter also touches on complaints heard in May 2020 where Mercer was alleged to have angrily put his hands on Shane Thompson, then Lands minister, on March 13.
“Mr. Mercer’s habit of intimidation is escalating. Last March, he put his hands on a Cabinet Minister, then denied it in the media,” Taylor wrote. “This was a serious altercation which reportedly resulted in a staff member filing a complaint with the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission.
“You must recognize how intimidating it is for Assembly Staff to believe that the Clerk can put hands on a Cabinet minister, then deny and make jokes about it in the media, publicly malign the character of the person who made the complaint and suffer no apparent consequences.”
Legislature's response, investigation and suspension
A responding letter from Glen Rutland, deputy clerk, House procedures and committees, on Friday informed Taylor that she was suspended with pay “effective immediately” up until March 14 as an investigation takes place.
“This suspension with pay is a result of allegations of you breaching confidentiality, the Government of the Northwest Territories Code of Conduct, and your Oath of Office,” states the Rutland letter.
The letter does not lay out the allegations against her specifically, but states that Taylor will learn of those at a later date.
“During the course of the investigation, you will be provided with details of the allegations and given an opportunity to respond to them. You must refrain from discussing this investigation and any aspect of it with anyone as all matters pertaining to this investigation are confidential.”
Board of Management
The Board of Management at the NWT Legislative Assembly is made up of MLAs who are responsible for the general administration of the territorial legislature. The board is responsible for providing funds and services for the legislature which includes compiling and reviewing annual budgets and expenditures, ensuring there is space for legislative operations and setting regulations and policies for elected members, according to the website.
The current board is made up of Speaker Frederick Blake Jr., Diane Archie, Caitlin Cleveland, Jackie Jacobson, and Paulie Chinna.
The BOM held a meeting on Thursday night and two emergency meetings on Friday and Saturday where Taylor’s letter was discussed in-camera.
On Monday, MLA Steve Norn took the rare step of holding a press conference to call for an independent investigation into Mercer's conduct.
Mercer said in an emailed statement on Monday that the Legislative Assembly is governed by the GNWT's Workplace Harassment Policy. He added that complaints about him have already been debunked in an investigation in 2018.
"The only one of the seemingly coordinated accusations that have been recently levelled against me that has been the subject of any sort of due process are the ones from Ms. Taylor," Mercer stated.
"These were thoroughly investigated and found to be seriously wanting for credibility, coordinated, rehearsed, hyperbolic and inconsistent with the evidence of other, credible witnesses. They were debunked by independent, southern based law firms with vast experience in these types in investigations."
Mercer added that the only complaints he has ever had in nearly two decades as a clerk "was from a small group of employees that included Ms. Taylor.
"The response to this complaint was described to me by a senior human resource official as the most damming indictment of a complainant they had ever seen," he added.
"I consent to its full and unredacted release and respectfully request that these other coordinated accusations be subject to the same level of mature, drama-free oversight and due process. This is not the way serious people and institution deal with matters as serious as this."