No cost yet on city’s official inquiry

by Avery Zingel - March 27, 2018

The cost of an inquiry into alleged workplace harassment and bullying by Doug Gillard, the city’s municipal enforcement manager, is undetermined, says city administration.

At a Municipal Services Committee meeting Monday, Coun. Shauna Morgan asked administration to divulge whether it had a cost limit for the inquiry, and the current bid amount from Miller Thomson LLP, the firm tapped for the job.

City councillor Shauna Morgan asks city administration whether it will set a cost-ceiling on the inquiry into allegations of workplace harassment and bullying by Doug Gillard.
Avery Zingel/NNSL photo

“I am certainly not prepared to give a blank cheque to whomever is going to do this inquiry to do as much as they want or can,” said Morgan. “It’s my understanding that the firms have to make a bid, a cost estimate, but that it might not be the final cost that the inquiry ends up taking.”

“At this time, we don’t have final costs for the inquiry,” said Kerry Penney, the city’s director of policy, communications and economic development.

When seeking proposals for the inquiry, firms submitted hourly rates to the city, most offering reduced or blended rates for partners and associates. Firms also provided a time estimate but once Miller Thomson outlines a scope for the investigation, the city will “have a better idea of final costs,” said Penney.

The partner leading the project is Vancouver-based lawyer Valerie Dixon — a labour and employment lawyer who was admitted to the B.C. bar 14 years ago.

According to a June 2017 annual legal fees survey by Canadian Lawyer magazine, $348 is the hourly rate for practitioners with 11 to 20 years of experience who work in the area of labour and employment law.

The cost of Dixon and Miller Thomson’s services to the city remains undetermined but the proposals offered blended or reduced rates to the city, said Penney.

“The details of the submission by Miller Thomson to the official inquiry request for proposals are privileged and confidential information,” said Richard McIntosh, a city communications and economic development officer in an email to Yellowknifer.

The city has set a six-week time frame to complete its inquiry, but “council has not set a minimum or maximum cost limit for the official inquiry,” said McIntosh.

When asked when the city will have concrete numbers on the cost, McIntosh wrote, “Once the official inquiry is completed.”

In an interview with Yellowknifer, acting mayor Adrian Bell said the timing and financing of the inquiry requires flexibility.

“Of course we need to have frequent updates to council, and there may be allegations that have to be referred for future investigation, but these types of things have to be allowed to have some flexibility budget-wise and timeline-wise,” said Bell.

“Six weeks is an ambitious target and I would like to see us achieve that, but quite frankly, it’s more important to me to do this right than to do it quickly.”