Bylaw inquiry zeros in on allegations from 2014

by Sidney Cohen - March 27, 2018

The inquiry into workplace misconduct at the city’s Municipal Enforcement Division could be narrower in scope than the investigation initially agreed upon by city council.

Council launched the inquiry into allegations of workplace misconduct at the division in January after a Yellowknifer investigation revealed accusations of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying against MED manager Doug Gillard.

The terms of reference, released publicly on Friday, appear to limit the inquiry to allegations of workplace misconduct in 2014, how they were handled, and to make recommendations for how to deal with future complaints.

Doug Gillard, the head of the Municipal Enforcement Division, says the new MacKay Pay parking app has contributed to a significant drop in parking meter violations.
Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo

However, as Yellowknifer has reported, there are significant allegations of workplace misconduct that date back about a decade prior to 2014.

Coun. Adrian Bell, who brought the motion that called for the inquiry, said Tuesday the terms of reference document “doesn’t fully reflect the scope of work that council had intended to include in this official inquiry.”

In February, council agreed that the inquiry’s scope must be “as thorough as possible to seek to understand the full range of alleged workplace misconduct in MED and the extent of knowledge up through the chain of command.”

Bell said it’s still possible for the scope of work to be broader than the terms of reference.

City administration is currently in talks with Miller Thomson LLP, the law firm chosen to oversee the inquiry, about scope and costs.

Yellowknifer has heard from more than 10 former officers who worked at MED between the early 2000s and 2014. These officers accuse Gillard of cultivating a sexist and toxic workplace culture at the bylaw department.

The inquiry’s terms of reference call for a review of the processes with which “concerns related to workplace misconduct in MED in 2014 were addressed,” but stop short of a commitment to investigate the accuracy of earlier allegations reported in this publication and others.

The findings of an investigation into a 2014 complaint about workplace issues at MED have never been made public.

Coun. Shauna Morgan’s central question is not, “Did a person do something, or not do something, five or 10 years ago?” but, “Were systems or policies put in place to make sure that any misconduct can’t happen again?”

It is also unclear from the terms of reference whether the investigator will look into accusations about the misuse of city cameras. The word “camera” does not appear in the document.

Gillard is alleged to have used city-owned security cameras to look at women he found attractive.

Bell said allegations about the inappropriate use of city cameras will “definitely” be addressed by the inquiry.

He expects this detail and others to be hammered out with the investigator this week.

Kevin Brandvold was a bylaw constable from 2004 to 2006 and one of several former officers interviewed by Yellowknifer.

Brandvold expressed disappointment and frustration Monday over the inquiry’s trajectory.

“It re-victimizes the victims and protects the guy who did it,” he said.

Brandvold said because he didn’t have the “strength or initiative” to complain through a lawyer while he was employed by the city, his story is being dismissed.

Brandvold moved from Alberta to Yellowknife for what he thought would be a decades-long career at the bylaw enforcement division, but quit less than three years into his tenure because the work environment was “absolutely poisonous.”

He was subsequently sued by the city for his relocation expenses, which he says he paid back.

Brandvold settled the case because he “didn’t have any fight left.”

In Brandvold’s statement of defence and counterclaim, he alleges he was subjected to intimidation, bullying and harassment at MED, and was forced to perform “demoralizing tasks” when he spoke up about senior management.

To Brandvold, the inquiry seems to disregard a pattern of misbehaviour by MED leadership going back to the early 2000s.

“Nothing will come of this, nothing will change,” he said.

“Myself and the other people (who) have come forward, we all agreed, as constables, to put our lives on the line and our personal safety at risk working under a mandate to benefit the public safety of the community as a whole.

“It’s important that the community stands behind us now and remembers that we’re people too.”

Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city’s senior administrative officer since March, 2017, said there are now a number of different ways city staff can raise issues of workplace harassment or misconduct.
“People who felt like they had a bad experience, if they have spoken out with the interest of ensuring that this doesn’t happen in the future, then I commend them for that,” Bassi-Kellett said on Tuesday.

The allegations of harassment and bullying against Gillard were brought to city council’s attention in 2014, after former MED officer Shayne Pierson filed an official complaint.

Pierson worked at MED from 2010 until he was fired in 2014.

In his complaint, obtained by Yellowknifer, Pierson alleges Gillard made sexual comments about women who worked at the city, rubbed spit on officers’ sunglasses and hit officers in the groin.

In an Aug. 23, 2014 email to a lawyer hired to investigate Pierson’s complaint, Dennis Kefalas, the senior administrative officer at the time, stated he planned to send a letter of discipline to Gillard based on the lawyer’s advice.

However, in an email to Pierson more than seven months later, Kefalas writes that the “third party found your complaints to be unfounded.”

Kefalas is currently the city’s director of Public Works and Engineering.

According to the official inquiry’s terms of reference, the investigator will review the manner in which the findings of a 2014 investigation were communicated to the complainant, upper management and to the mayor and council.

The city would not confirm if Pierson’s complaint is the basis of the inquiry, because personnel matters are confidential.