New Brunswick

Chris Collins 'accepts full responsibility' after workplace harassment finding

Speaker Chris Collins accepts responsibility for the behaviour an investigator says violated provincial policy against workplace harassment, his lawyer says.

Calling Speaker 'apologetic,' lawyer TJ Burke won't reveal details of harassment allegations or behaviour

Allegations of harassment against Moncton Centre Liberal MLA Chris Collins, speaker of the New Brunswick legislature, were founded "in part." (CBC)

Speaker Chris Collins accepts responsibility for the behaviour an investigator says violated a provincial policy against workplace harassment, his lawyer says.  

"He accepts full responsibility for the findings that the investigator made in her report," T.J. Burke said Tuesday afternoon.

Burke later said Collins is "apologetic for the actions" deemed to violate provincial policy. 

Burke would not go into details about the specific behaviour, but said it was not a form of physical harassment.

"He's quite upset and distraught over the findings," Burke said.

He said Collins wasn't prepared to publicly comment on the matter, so he gave approval to Burke to provide a statement. 

Lawyer for Speaker won't reveal details of harassment allegations or behaviour 1:24

Burke spoke the day after an all-party legislative committee issued a vague statement on the investigation into the harassment allegations against Collins, who has represented Moncton Centre for the Liberals and been Speaker since 2014.

The committee said a summary of the investigation concluded a harassment complaint was "founded in part" and there was a violation of provincial policy. There was no elaboration and there is no indication the investigator's report will be made public.

A former Liberal riding president in Moncton Centre says she's infuriated by the lack of details.

"This man was waiting four months, his reputation was in tatters and all of a sudden this comes out," Audrey Lampert said Tuesday.

T.J. Burke, the lawyer representing Speaker Chris Collins, previously told reporters the unspecified allegations against his client were not founded. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

"We still don't know what the allegations are," Lampert said. "Something's founded 'in part.' What does that mean? Is it a little weeny part, is it a great big part? We don't know what they're talking about. I find this infuriating. It's unfair."

Lampert quit as president of the Liberal association in Collins's riding in May.

Members of the legislative administration committee, which received only the summary of the investigation, were unable to decide on a "remedy," according to an email from Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc, acting committee chair, to the deputy clerk of the legislature.

LeBlanc has asked for a second committee meeting Friday afternoon to decide on a remedy.

Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc, acting chair of the legislative administration committee, read a prepared statement to news media on Monday and refused to take questions afterward. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Cathy Rogers, Liberal MLA for Moncton South and the finance minister, told reporters in Moncton on Tuesday she was happy "the report has come out."

"There's really nothing more to say than what's been reported," she said.

At several points, she said the report had been released, although it hasn't.

"Not necessarily," Rogers said when asked if the report should be released. "It's a private matter and we're following normal protocol, normal practice in HR."

It's not clear who did receive the report of the investigation by Leslie H. MacLeod, an adjunct professor at Osgoode  Law School.

Already punished, lawyer says

Burke said only the legislative assembly can punish Collins, something that would require calling it back into session. 

He said he doesn't think the public would be well-served to have MLAs return to debate the issue. 

He said Collins has already suffered punishment, including having his name associated with allegations of harassment for several months and his removal from the Liberal caucus. 

"I believe the man has suffered enough, I believe the man has been punished appropriately," Burke said.

Still 'don't know anything'

Lampert, who quit as Liberal president in Collins's riding in May over Premier Brian Gallant's handling of the case. 

"We don't know anything," Lampert said Tuesday. "It's worse than before."

Lampert said she spoke to Collins on Monday evening, though declined to say what they discussed. 

The probe was launched after Gallant held a sudden teleconference call with reporters April 5 to announce he had learned about allegations of harassment made by a former employee of the legislature.

Cathy Rogers, Liberal MLA for Moncton South, told reporters she doesn't believe an investigator's report on the allegations against Collins should necessarily be made public. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

Gallant said his office had been "previously" aware of "personality conflicts" between Collins and an employee and knew in February a complaint might be coming. The complaint wasn't officially made until April.

"I think we're in the same position we were when the premier made his announcement back in April," Lampert said.

The committee hired Macleod to carry out the investigation.

Collins issued a lengthy statement in the spring saying he wouldn't run for the Liberals in the fall provincial election.

Not sure of election plans

Lampert said she doesn't know whether Collins will run as an independent and wouldn't encourage him or discourage him from running.

Burke did not rule out Collins running as an independent. 

Collins gave up his Speaker responsibilities after the allegations came out, but he will keep the title until a new Speaker is chosen at the opening of the first session of the legislature after the September election.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.