Sudbury city council decides not to take disciplinary action in harassment investigation

Sudbury city councillor Gerry Montpellier says he has been “found guilty” of workplace harassment, following a third party investigation into allegations that he and fellow councillor Michael Vagnini harassed the city’s former fire chief.

City staff directed to give council training on workplace harassment legislation

Sudbury City Council decided on Wednesday to not take disciplinary action following an investigation into harassment allegations against councillors Michael Vagnini and Gerry Montpellier. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Greater Sudbury City Council has decided that no disciplinary action will be taken following an investigation into harassment allegations against councillors Michael Vagnini and Gerry Montpellier.

Council made the decision during an in-camera meeting on Wednesday evening, where they discussed a report from a third-party investigator.

Earlier in the day, Montpellier and Vagnini held a media conference to discuss the results of the investigation.

Montpellier said he had been "found guilty" of workplace harassment, while Vagnini and two private citizens who had also been named in the initial complaint were "exonerated."

That complaint was made by the Sudbury Professional Firefighters Association last spring, alleging that both councillors and the two private citizens made "bullying" comments towards fire chief Trevor Bain during public meetings on the city's fire optimization plan.

The Ministry of Labour later ordered the city to conduct a full investigation after it determined the complaint had not been properly dealt with.

Councillors Gerry Montpellier (right) and Michael Vagnini (left) held a media conference earlier on Wednesday to discuss the investigation. (Sophie Houle-Drapeau/Radio-Canada)

"It's official, I have been found guilty of workforce harassment by a private investigator that I have never met or spoken with," Montpellier told reporters and members of the public at the media conference.

According to Montpellier, the complaint against him stemmed from his use of the term "empire builders" during a public meeting in Dowling.   

"I used this word when I opposed the over $150 million hated and rejected fire plan," he explained.

Council to receive training on harassment legislation

Montpellier also argued that as a city councillor, he shouldn't have even been considered a respondent in a harassment investigation under Bill 168, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act on violence and harassment in the workplace.

"It does not apply to members of the public, citizens, council or special interest groups," he said.

Both Vagnini and Montpellier cited a letter from the Ontario Ministry of Labour with this information, but they did not supply a copy of the letter to the public.

CBC News contacted the Ministry, but it could not confirm if city councillors are covered by the act.

In a statement, Mayor Brian Bigger stated that council gave direction to staff following the in-camera meeting to ensure council receive training on Bill 168 by June 2018.

About the Author

Robin De Angelis

Reporter/Editor

Robin De Angelis is a multimedia journalist based in Sudbury. Get in touch on Twitter @RobinElizabethD or by email robin.deangelis@cbc.ca