Municipal staff

MLA Hillier harassed municipal staff in Tay Valley, review finds


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Lanark Area MLA Randy Hillier has engaged in workplace harassment with his “unwelcome” criticism of Tay Valley Township staff, an independent investigator concluded.

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A confidential report from attorney John Curtis, who spent three months on the case, was delivered to city council on Monday. It centered on allegations that three people, including Hillier and an unidentified advisor, had violated internal conduct policies and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Outspoken Hillier, who criticized planning and construction departments at a township meeting on June 26, dismissed the finding as the work of a kangaroo court. “It gave me even more determination to call a spade a spade.”

He had in fact refused to answer Curtis’ written questions, calling the process a parody.

“Sir. Curtis determined that” you engaged in conduct and comment which was known or reasonably should have been known to be intrusive, “read a letter to Hillier.” This is the definition of harassment at work in the Program and in the Law. ”

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Hillier strongly disagrees, saying it is not only his job, but also his duty as an MLA at a higher level of government, to voice the many concerns voters have about the issue. management of real estate development by the canton.

“I haven’t ‘harassed’ anyone,” he said on Wednesday. “It belittles the term harassment. It no longer makes sense when an unwelcome comment equates to harassment. “

He said he knew his remarks might be “unwelcome” because they criticized the way township staff were handling construction and planning issues.

How, he wondered, can a civil servant work in the public domain – providing rationed public services – where there are political guarantees that no “intrusive” comment will be tolerated?

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(To that end, Hillier later issued a press release suggesting that the entire Provincial Auditor General’s report, released Wednesday and dealing with shortcomings in how Ontario works, was undoubtedly “unwelcome” in many. circles and possibly an act of harassment.)

The township investigation, however, said Hillier did more than criticize the employees, but “unfairly questioned the competence and competence of township staff and undermined their integrity.”

The letter sent to Hillier by the township executive director Larry Donaldson said there were a number of criticisms and that the MPP was “warned” against this “type of behavior” in March.

“Much of the information you rely on for your reviews is inaccurate and comments about staff are derogatory. The impact of this behavior is made even more damaging by the position and authority you hold as a Member of Parliament.

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The township, west of Perth, has a “Respectful Workplace Program” whose legal status derives from the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. Faced with a complaint that could not be resolved internally, the municipality said it was required to request an independent review. Likewise, it has a “counselor code of conduct” that was triggered after complaints about an anonymous counselor.

In an email response, Donaldson said he couldn’t be specific on what steps the township would take to ensure the workplace was healthy when it came to dealing with Hillier and others. , but assured that there would be “corrective measures”.

Hillier told Postmedia in September that he had received a “disproportionate” number of complaints about the construction approval process in Tay Valley. He said he emailed his concerns at least twice to advisers or senior managers, had numerous phone conversations with various industry stakeholders, and made a public presentation to the board in June.

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Tay Valley, he told councilors, has three people in the planning department, but was only able to approve eight new homes in 2016, well below the growth of neighboring municipalities. In addition, he said industry players are afraid to speak out, which makes it doubly important for their MPP to voice their concerns, without fear of retaliation.

Complaints of workplace harassment appear to be on the rise in Ontario. Although reporting is not mandatory, in 2014-2015 the Ministry of Labor reported 902 harassment complaints in all workplaces, a number that climbed to 1,986 in 2016-2017.

Hillier – who receives no penalties for his transgression – says he has no plans to change the way he treats city staff, whom he still claims to be civil and respectful.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email [email protected]

Twitter.com/kellyegancolumn

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