Allegations of past misconduct haven't shaken Yellowknife mayor's confidence in city staff

The mayor of Yellowknife says he had full confidence in the senior administrative officer who oversaw a 2014 complaint alleging bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour by the manager of the city’s municipal enforcement division.

As allegations of harassment mount, Yellowknife city hall takes steps to maintain public confidence

Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck says he remains confident in city staff who oversaw the 2014 investigation into allegations of abuse of authority and misconduct by a senior city employee. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

The mayor of Yellowknife says he had full confidence in the senior administrative officer who oversaw a 2014 complaint alleging bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour by the manager of the city's municipal enforcement division — though the SAO did not tell the mayor that he socialized with the manager.

Mayor Mark Heyck said on Thursday he was unaware of the personal relationship between Dennis Kefalas, then the city's SAO, and municipal enforcement manager Doug Gillard. Kefalas is now the city's director of public works.

"I typically don't socialize very often with city employees myself, so I wouldn't be aware of relationships like that," Heyck said.

Doug Gillard, manager of municipal enforcement for the city of Yellowknife, is at the centre of controversy leading to the shutdown of city security cameras Thursday. (CBC)

In his 2014 complaint, former municipal enforcement officer Shayne Pierson alleged that his manager Doug Gillard bullied and harassed him, made highly inappropriate sexual comments about female city employees, rubbed spit on officers' sunglasses and hit them in the groin.

Heyck refused to say whether it's appropriate for a friend to oversee the investigation of a friend. He also refused to comment when asked if Gillard's boss, public safety director Dennis Marchiori, had any responsibility to ensure that an anti-harassment policy in place at the time was followed.

Yellowknife's director of public safety Dennis Marchiori at a Yellowknife city council meeting Feb. 20, 2016. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

"Council has the one employee, the senior administrative officer," said Heyck.

"The senior administrative officer is responsible for the management of all employees for the city. So that's a question that is more appropriate for the senior administrative officer."

New policies in place

Former municipal enforcement officers say Gillard harassed and bullied employees with impunity for years leading up to 2014. According to internal emails, as a result of Pierson's complaint, Gillard was given a letter of discipline and ordered to take sensitivity training.

In an interview with another media outlet, the current SAO, Sheila Bassi-Kellet, suggested new policies the city has put in place, such as a whistleblower policy, will prevent similar things from happening in the future.

But the behaviour the former officers describe matches the description of harassment given in an anti-harassment policy in place since 2004.

It defines harassment as, "any improper behaviour by a person that is directed at, and is offensive to, any other employee of the city … and which that person knew or ought to have known would be unwelcome … it comprises objectionable conduct, comment or display that demeans, belittles, threatens or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment to an employee."

More allegations

Kerry Nicholson, who was a municipal enforcement officer from 2006 to 2012, says Gillard offered to buy free drinks for any officer who could ticket a justice of the peace with a reputation for throwing out traffic tickets.

Nicholson was just 20 years old when he started working in the division. It was the first time living outside his parent's home in Ottawa. He says during his time in Ottawa he stayed away from alcohol because he had seen the trouble it had caused his brother.

So when he was asked what he wanted to drink at a city Octoberfest party at the Monkey Tree bar shortly after arriving, he said he would have water. He said Gillard insisted he drink, so he ordered a beer. But Nicholson said Gillard said he had to "drink like a man."

"And then I found myself with a line of tequila shots in front of me and Mr. Gillard hovering over me — he's not a small individual, he's a very intimidating looking individual — with his right hand digging into my shoulder saying 'You're going to drink each one of these.'" Nicholson says he did and was immediately sick.

Nicholson said at another social function, Gillard took embarrassing photos and video of him when he was highly intoxicated and later repeatedly threatened to share them with others.

Nicholson said there was nowhere for him to go with his complaints about Gillard's behaviour at work. Under the city's complaints protocol, he said he was expected to confront Gillard first, then Marchiori, then Kefalas.

Dennis Kefalas, Yellowknife's former senior administrative officer, is still working with the city as director of public works. (CBC)

"The problem was that all those guys were tight-knit, they all knew each other, they all hung out after hours," said Nicholson. "I never felt as though anyone was taking me seriously."

The CBC asked for comment on Nicholson's allegations from Gillard and Marchiori, but neither made themselves available. The CBC has also been unable to get comment from Kefalas on any allegations.

City reacts, cameras switched off

As the public becomes aware of the allegations of bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour, Yellowknife city hall is working to protect Yellowknifers' faith in their municipal government.

Late Thursday the city announced it was shutting down security cameras in city facilities in reaction to allegations that Gillard used them until 2014 to eye women he found attractive.

Nicholson says he told Marchiori about Gillard's use of the security cameras, but Marchiori didn't believe him.

On Monday, city council will debate launching an investigation into the allegations former officers have levelled against Gillard. Coun. Adrian Bell says the motion he's making calls for the investigator to report directly to council, not city administration.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.