Yk bylaw boss under fire

by Sidney Cohen - January 15, 2018

A number of former bylaw officers are making allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying against the manager of the Municipal Enforcement Division.

In sworn testimonies made to a lawyer in 2014 and interviews with News/North, former officers allege Doug Gillard created a toxic work environment in which inappropriate sexual and physical behaviour, and sexual comments, were not only accepted, but promoted.

Doug Gillard: Manager of municipal enforcement accused of inappropriate behaviour.

Specifically, Gillard is alleged to have made inappropriate sexual comments about women who worked for the city, to have hit officers in the groin, wiped spit on officers’ sunglasses and used the city’s closed-circuit (CCTV) cameras to look at women.

The allegations span about a decade, from the early 2000s to 2014. Gillard was manager of MED throughout.

Yellowknife city council was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying against Gillard on Jan. 5 when a 2014 audio recording was sent to them by an unnamed person. News/North has independently obtained a copy of this recording.

In it, former MED officer Kerry Nicholson is interviewed by lawyer Alan Regel as part of a lawsuit over the dismissal of another former MED officer, Doug Norrad.

Nicholson’s statements, made under oath, allege “an extremely strange working environment,” during his time working at MED beginning in 2006 before he quit in 2012. In the recording, Nicholson alleges that Gillard had access in his office to footage from closed-circuit cameras at city facilities, and that Gillard would use cameras at the library and Ruth Inch Memorial Pool to zoom in on women.

Kerry Penney, director of policy, communications and economic development at the city, stated in an email Thursday that there have never been cameras at the pool.

Nicholson also alleges Gillard would call MED members into his office to join in the viewing.

On the audio file, Nicholson describes a “little sick game” in which Gillard would strike other MED members in the groin.

‘Everything in that recording is true’

In an interview Wednesday, he stood by his statements on the recording, saying, “everything in that recording is true.”

Former MED officer Jamie Fudge also made a sworn statement as part of the Norrad case, which was obtained by News/North as well.

In the recording, Fudge alleges Gillard called officers into his office to view CCTV footage of attractive women at the library.

Former MED officer Shayne Pierson, who was fired in May 2014, made a formal complaint to the city about MED management after he was terminated, alleging bullying and “comments of a sexual nature” that were made about women who worked for the city.

A going away card for former MED officer Dana Jones highlights a sexist work environment described by herself and other officers.
photo courtesy of Kevin Brandvold

In a July 16, 2014 statement to lawyer Michelle Theriault, a third-party investigator hired by the city to investigate the complaint, Pierson alleges that Gillard described sexual acts he wanted to perform on specific city staffers, and talked about the underwear of another temporary city employee.

In the interview, Pierson, too, spoke about Gillard hitting officers in the groin. In addition, Pierson alleges that Gillard would frequently spit on his hands and rub them onto officers’ sunglasses.

Pierson states in the interview he first tried talking to Gillard about his behaviour in 2013. The mayor and council were alerted in 2014 to the investigation into Gillard that was sparked by Pierson’s complaint.

In a Aug. 23, 2014 email – one of hundreds of city emails obtained by News/North last October – Coun. Niels Konge asks Dennis Kefalas, the senior administrative officer at the time, for an update on the “status of the investigation that was launched after the complaint by Mr. Pierson.”

In an Oct. 30, 2014 email to Theriault, Kefalas wrote that Gillard was soon to receive a letter of discipline.

He writes: “thank you for including the second to last paragraph regarding sensitivity training. I’m just having Marie revise the letter of discipline based on your opinion. The plan is to give it to Doug Gillard tomorrow. Please ignore Mr. Pierson’s email I responded.”

However, in an email sent more than seven months later, which was obtained by News/North last week, Kefalas tells Pierson that a “third party found your complaints to be unfounded.”

Kevin Brandvold worked at MED from 2004 to 2006 and said he left because the culture was “absolutely not tolerable.”

“I really wanted to work there for 25 years,” he said in an interview with News/North on Wednesday.

“However the culture that was alive and well there, because of the leadership, would absolutely not facilitate that.”

Brandvold said there was an atmosphere of intimidation and that sexual comments were rampant.

During his time at MED, Brandvold said, there was “a good-old-boys culture.”

Brandvold made his views about the climate at MED known after he quit, in his exit interview with the city.

City administration, he said, would have to be “asleep at the wheel” not to have known what was going on.

‘I need assurances’

Konge confirmed that the recording given to councillors Jan. 5 was that of Kerry Nicholson’s 2014 interview with lawyer Alan Regel. He would not comment on the recording itself, but said, “I need assurances that the people who are supposed to take care of this, took care of it, and it was dealt with properly.”

Coun. Adrian Bell declined to speak to the recording’s contents but said he is taking the matter “very seriously.”

“Councillors have been told that the situation was dealt with but not having been made aware of the details, I can’t say with 100 per cent certainty that it was handled appropriately,” he said.

Bell said he had heard rumours of a “less than ideal working environment” at MED but was never made aware of details.

Several officers pointed to a high turnover rate at MED as an indication that all was not well in the city’s public safety department.

“You’re losing an officer or two every single year,” said Nicholson on the recording.

“If you ask me, your problem child there is Doug Gillard, but nobody seems to be accepting that and nobody seems to be actioning it.”

Gillard’s response

None of the allegations made by Nicholson, Fudge, Pierson and Brandvold have been proven in court.

Gillard was reached by phone Thursday and asked about the allegations, including whether he used city CCTV cameras to look at women. He declined to comment and asked all questions be directed to Kerry Penney.

Gillard was reached again by phone on Friday and asked if he would respond to a list of allegations but hung up the phone before the list could be read to him. He was also emailed a list of the allegations.

Penney confirmed a third-party investigator was appointed to look into a 2014 complaint and that a report was provided to city administration.

“The city took appropriate follow-up action based on the findings of the report,” stated Penney.

“The city can confirm that there have been no follow-up complaints made since the 2014 complaint.” News/North provided Penney with a list of the specific allegations against Gillard brought forward by Nicholson, Fudge, Pierson and Brandvold but she would not comment on them, citing employee privacy.

“The city prides itself on an inclusive, respectful work culture,” stated Penney.

One female officer’s story

Dana Jones was a constable with the Municipal Enforcement Division from 2002 to 2006. News/North interviewed her Wednesday.

At MED, Jones said she was treated differently from her male counterparts.

In one incident, Jones asked for a new armoured vest after her old one expired. She said another officer told her to take a male’s vest and “tape her chest.”

“When he said that, I felt degraded,” she said.

Jones said she approached upper management with issues on two occasions and both times her complaints were brushed aside.

Life at work was made so difficult for Jones, she said she decided to quit. She moved away from Yellowknife, where she had friends and family, for a job in an unrelated field, in a place where she knew no one.

“I left my job for a job that paid half of what I got paid (at MED), without benefits, that didn’t pertain to my career, because I wasn’t able to emotionally, physically and mentally work there anymore,” she said