City investigating positive references given to fired HSR manager

The city’s top bureaucrat says he’s getting to the bottom of the two so-called glowing references that helped a fired Hamilton Street Railway manager accused of sexually harassing a female employee get a job in Guelph.

Arbitrator's report says Bill Richardson sexually harassed a female employee for years

An arbitrators report said that the city of Hamilton “failed to take even the most basic substantive measures to protect" an HSR inspector who was being harassed by her supervisor. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The city’s top bureaucrat says he’s getting to the bottom of the two so-called glowing references that helped a fired Hamilton Street Railway manager accused of sexually harassing a female employee get a job in Guelph.

City manager Chris Murray says he’s talking to HSR management and employees in Guelph regarding references given for Bill Richardson.

According to a recent arbitrator’s report, Richardson sent lewd emails, insulted and inappropriately touched a female transit inspector. The report also cites the city as negligent in protecting the woman.

Guelph staff obtained references from HSR director Don Hull and manager of operations Chris Garrish. Murray is talking to both men, as well as Guelph staff, to review the questions and answers to find out the truth.

“It’s really important we both do our homework before we start to draw any conclusions,” Murray said.

Manager sexually harassed female employee for years

The city manager was part of a media conference late Wednesday night to discuss the sexual harassment case. In a decision released Sept. 18, arbitrator Kelly Waddingham wrote that Richardson had sexually harassed a female employee known as AB for years.

According to the report, the actions ranged from calling her an “Irish skank” to sending several pornographic emails over a three-year period. AB was the only female in the 14-member inspector crew, which communicates with drivers and helps direct daily transit service.

AB reported the harassment to upper management numerous times. The city, Waddingham wrote, “failed to take even the most basic substantive measures to protect her – principally removing Mr. Richardson as her supervisor.”

In fact, Waddingham wrote, “it is reasonable to conclude that the damage to AB’s dignity, feelings and self respect was only exacerbated by the city’s half-hearted and insensitive response.”

Richardson was dismissed without cause last August after 24 years with HSR. The arbitrator’s decision stated that his severance was about $200,000. Murray says the severance, which has already been paid, was “substantially less,” but wouldn’t give an exact number.

Former manager fired Tuesday from job in Guelph

Richardson was hired by the city of Guelph on Sept. 8 as supervisor of mobility services. He was fired on Tuesday after senior staff learned of the arbitration report.

AB, a 23-year HSR veteran, received $25,000 in the arbitration settlement, including $20,000 in damages for the city not protecting her from harassment and discrimination. She also filed a human rights complaint, which was settled outside of the hearing.

The city is implementing the arbitration decisions. This includes:

  • Posting notices of employees’ right to a discrimination-free workplace.
  • Posting copies of the relevant policies and procedures.
  • Evaluating the anti-discrimination It Starts With You training program.
  • Training HSR staff on anti-discrimination.

Coun. Scott Duvall was “very disappointed” to learn of the case.

“It made one of our employees be a victim of something that was going on for years,” Duvall said after an in-camera session at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

“One of our employees went through a traumatic experience because some of the people involved when she cried out for help did not fully do their jobs.”

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, councillors voted to review a 2006 policy regarding severances paid to employees dismissed without cause.

Murray said he plans to reach out to the female employee.

“I absolutely will be speaking to this individual as quick as I can have answers to some obvious questions she’s going to ask,” he said.

“It’s critical that we apologize and start to try and rebuild the confidence that she needs to be effective here, but also want to make sure anyone who works for this organization is confident about to work today.”


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