Calgary

Calgary Drop-In Centre's executive director quits amid allegations of workplace harassment at shelter

Debbie Newman, the executive director of the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, announced her resignation Tuesday amid controversy after CBC News first reported allegations of workplace bullying, harassment and abuse involving a former senior manager.

'I am stepping down for the good of the organization,' Debbie Newman says in statement

Debbie Newman has resigned as the executive director of the Calgary Drop In and Rehab centre. (Bryan Labby/CBC )

Debbie Newman, the executive director of the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, has announced her immediate resignation amid controversy after CBC News first reported allegations of workplace bullying, harassment and abuse involving a former senior manager.

"While it saddens me to leave the DI, recent allegations about problems in the workplace have become a major distraction from our mission. I am stepping down for the good of the organization. I wish the DI and its clients nothing but the best," said Newman in a statement to the board of directors on Tuesday..

Newman had been at the shelter for 22 years. 

A CBC report on Feb. 5 revealed a former employee, Stephanie Raynor-Hohol, had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, alleging she suffered sexual harassment and psychological abuse at the hands of former director Steve Baldwin. 

Raynor-Hohol says she reported the first incident to Newman in November 2016 and later took her concerns to two members of the Drop-In Centre's board of directors in early February 2017

Two other former employees, Rudy Varga and Ben Lee, claimed they were fired shortly after raising concerns to Newman about workplace bullying and harassment. 

​In an email to CBC News, Baldwin — through his lawyer — denied the allegations and commenced legal action against Raynor-Hohol, alleging defamation.

Baldwin left the organization late last year following an internal corporate restructuring. 

Baldwin began working at the Drop-In Centre in 2009. His father, Dermot Baldwin, is one of the facility's founders.

City and province launched investigations

The City of Calgary and the provincial government are investigating the allegations of bullying and harassment.

The city and the provincial government provide annual funding to the homeless shelter, which is the largest of its kind in Canada, and has an annual operating budget of approximately $23 million. 

Both the city and province said certain human resource practices must be met by organizations that receive their funding.

Coun. Sean Chu says the change in leadership at the Drop-In Centre is encouraging. He says the city's investigation into the shelter's HR policies is expected shortly.

"I want to see the investigation come out, and the DI will provide the best practice for not only the clients but also the staff and volunteers," Chu said. 

One of the communities in Chu's ward is Thorncliffe-Greenview, which has been waging a six-year battle with the DI over the conversion of a former hotel on Edmonton Trail into transitional housing. 

The province confirmed Tuesday that its investigation into the Drop-In Centre's human resources policies and procedures is continuing.

The city contributes on average $500,000 per year.

The province handed over $13.3 million to the shelter last year.  

'I don't think we failed them at all,' Newman said

In a Feb. 14 interview with CBC, Newman was asked whether she failed the employees who raised allegations of workplace bullying and harassment.

"I don't think we failed them at all. What I'm saying is that the workplace has a responsibility, I have a responsibility to this agency," Newman said.

" As executive director, I take responsibility for everything that happens in here ….  All of the questions that have been raised have really, in my mind, made me think about what could we have done better, what could we have done better to serve our staff."


Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.

About the Author

Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.