The city temporarily switched off its security cameras Thursday following allegations in the press this week that the head of bylaw enforcement used them to look at women attending city facilities.
“Recent media coverage concerning allegations about workplace behaviour at the City of Yellowknife in 2014 and before paints a disturbing picture of the city’s work environment.
“The corporate culture portrayed through these allegations is toxic,” reads a news release issued by the city Thursday afternoon.
On Monday, News/North reported allegations of a sexist and toxic workplace culture at the Municipal Enforcement Division under manager Doug Gillard.
The allegations span the years from the early 2000s to 2014 and include two claims, made under oath to a lawyer, that Gillard used the city’s closed-circuit camera system to view women at city facilities.
Yellowknifer reported on Wednesday that Gillard still had access to the cameras.
The city stated Thursday that the cameras will not be turned on again until a “comprehensive public policy” for their use is put in place.
Kerry Penney, the city’s director of Policy, Communications and Economic Development, said Thursday that the city has not received any formal complaint about the misuse of security cameras.
The city stressed that there have never been cameras at the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, as heard in the statement made by former bylaw officer Kerry Nicholson.
Anyone with concerns about inappropriate behaviour at the city is encouraged to contact Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the senior administrative officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail to 4807 52nd Street, PO Box 580, Yellowknife NT, X1A 2N4.
‘Council is taking this very, very seriously’
The mayor says when a complaint about a toxic workplace at municipal enforcement was made in 2014, he trusted the city manager of the day would take care of it.
“Mayor and council have one employee, and that’s the senior administrative officer, and we entrust that individual with the responsibility of overseeing the municipal workforce and municipal operations,” Mark Heyck said Wednesday.
The senior administrative officer in 2014 was Dennis Kefalas. He took the job in an acting capacity in 2012, became permanent in 2013, then left the post in 2016 to return to his prior position as director of Public Works and Engineering.
In an interview at city hall on Wednesday, the mayor addressed allegations of sexual and physical misconduct and bullying by MED manager Doug Gillard, as well as reports that between the early 2000s and 2014, the workplace at bylaw enforcement was unhealthy and unprofessional.
“Council is taking this very, very seriously,” said Heyck, adding council has not yet decided how to proceed with the claims.
Gillard is alleged to have made inappropriate sexual comments about female staff at the city, homophobic remarks to MED officers, to have hit officers in the groin, wiped spit on their sunglasses, and used the city’s closed-circuit (CCTV) camera system to look at women at city facilities.
Heyck said he was made aware of the accusations against Gillard – specifically, that Gillard allegedly used city-owned security cameras to view women at city facilities – a little over a week ago.
On Jan. 5, councillors received a copy of a 2014 recording in which former MED officer Kerry Nicholson alleges, among other things, that Gillard used the city’s CCTV cameras to look at women.
Nicholson was a bylaw officer from 2006 to 2012. His testimony was part of a lawsuit into the dismissal of former MED-officer Doug Norrad.
In January 2011, Gillard asked RCMP to investigate Norrad for stealing parking meter change. The RCMP found no evidence of any theft. Norrad was fired in 2012. He subsequently sued the city for $770,000 in a wrongful dismissal suit. The case was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount tied to a non-disclosure agreement.
Council and administration got wind of a potentially toxic and sexist workplace at MED when then-bylaw officer Shayne Pierson filed a formal complaint with the city after he was fired in May 2014.
In a statement to a lawyer hired by the city to investigate his complaint, Pierson states he tried talking to both Gillard and Dennis Marchiori, the city’s director of Public Safety, about Gillard’s behaviour.
Pierson states Marchiori told him to address his issues through the “chain of command.” Pierson told Yellowknifer he took that to mean his supervisor, who reported directly to Gillard.
Dana Jones, who worked at MED for three and a half years before quitting in frustration in 2006, said she felt she was denied certain training opportunities because she is a woman.
She said she approached Marchiori in 2006 about being denied access to advanced training, and about feeling as though she was being treated differently than her male counterparts.
Jones said Marchiori responded to her in an email that her issues had nothing to do with her gender.
She believes that Marchiori did not take her complaints seriously.
Marchiori was then, and still is, Gillard’s direct superior.
Yellowknifer asked Kerry Penney, the city’s director of Policy, Communications and Economic Development on Monday if Marchiori would respond to claims that he didn’t take seriously complaints about the way MED was run under Gillard.
Penney said: “Marchiori won’t be commenting at this time.”
Penney was sent a list of questions for Kefalas on Wednesday, including whether he was aware of other allegations against Gillard outside of Pierson’s complaint, but Yellowknifer was still waiting for a response at press time.
‘Appropriate follow-up action’
Heyck said the 2014 complaint signaled issues at MED, and that “city administration took that pretty seriously at the time, in choosing to launch an investigation.”
When asked whether he would consider directing the senior administrative officer to move Gillard out of his current job, should any of the allegations bear out, Heyck said, “I don’t answer hypothetical questions.”
Coun. Adrian Bell said earlier this week he intends to ask council on Monday to consider launching an inquiry into workplace misconduct at MED.
Heyck expressed faith in current senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett.
“We know there’s concern in the community about these allegations and we’re going to be reviewing different options to move forward and address some of these things,” he said.
“I have full confidence in our senior administrative officer to move our city forward in a positive way in this regard.”
Since News/North first published on Monday reports of a toxic and sexist workplace at MED under Gillard, a number of other former bylaw officers have come forward with stories of their own.
Yellowknifer has spoken with 10 former MED officers who worked between the early 2000s and 2014. Gillard was manager throughout.
Three former officers have alleged Gillard made homophobic comments to MED members.
In his sworn statement to a lawyer in 2014, Nicholson said Gillard called him “gay” for not having a girlfriend.
Nicholson stated that “until I brought a girl around, and she told (Gillard) that she’d slept with me, that I must just be this gay boy that’s working for the city.”
Two other former officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Gillard used homophobic terms as an insult.
Gillard and Penney were emailed on Wednesday a detailed list of the allegations made about Gillard’s alleged homophobic remarks. Gillard did not respond to the email but Penney confirmed that he had seen it.
None of the allegations by Jones, Nicholson, Fudge, Pierson and the officers requesting anonymity has been proven in court.