Harassment allegations against Speaker Chris Collins 'founded in part'

Allegations of harassment levelled against Speaker Chris Collins were “founded in part,” says the vice-chair of an all-party committee of the New Brunswick Legislature.

Collins announced earlier he won’t run with Liberals in September’s provincial election

Harassment allegations against Speaker Chris Collins, pictured, were 'founded in part,' according to Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc. (CBC)

Allegations of harassment levelled against Speaker Chris Collins were "founded in part," says the vice-chair of an all-party committee of the New Brunswick Legislature.

Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc read a short statement, endorsed by all members of the legislative administration committee during a two-hour, closed meeting Monday afternoon.

"The investigation was conducted in an impartial and fair manner," he said. "It was extensive and it is now complete.

"There was a violation of the Province of New Brunswick workforce harassment policy."

The committee could not agree on a remedy and has asked the deputy clerk to recommend one.

Allegations not revealed

Whether the public will ever see the report on the case to know just what Collins was accused of isn't certain.

LeBlanc released no details about the nature of the alleged harassment and did not indicate how much of the complaint was not founded.

Nor did he say anything about who the complainant was. 

He said the committee will not release the report from the investigation, and he did not take any questions.

LeBlanc said the investigation, led by Osgoode Law School adjunct professor Leslie H. Macleod, has concluded.

The investigation was spurred by allegations of harassment made by a former employee of the legislature, Premier Brian Gallant said during a conference call with journalists April 5.

LeBlanc read a prepared general statement to the news media on Monday about the harassment allegations against Collins. He refused to take questions afterward and said he would not make public the report on the matter. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

In his statement, Gallant said his office had been "previously" aware of "personality conflicts" between Collins and an employee. The complaint wasn't officially made until late March.

Response from Gallant

On Monday afternoon, Gallant released a statement thanking the committee members for their "unanimous statement," and the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly for "the process they have undertaken."

"When the complaint was made, our caucus decided to suspend the MLA for Moncton Centre from caucus, which is consistent with a policy of sending someone home with pay pending an investigation," he said in the statement.

"We expect the appropriate remedy to be determined by the appropriate authority within the legislative branch." 

Opposition mum

Collins announced this spring he won't run with the Liberals in September's provincial election.

Opposition members of the committee would not comment on the report Monday.

MLA Ted Flemming, who was filling in for a fellow Progressive Conservative on the committee, said there was "a mountain of information" that he wanted to process before he would comment.

Green Party Leader David Coon also did not comment on the report.

When the allegations first surfaced Collins threatened to sue Gallant for defamation and hinted he would run again as a non-Liberal or independent candidate. On Monday he said he had no comments about the findings.

His lawyer T. J. Burke also didn't respond to a request for comment.

Collins has been Speaker since after the 2014 election. He gave up his responsibilities as Speaker in April after the allegations first came to light, but he kept his title and salary.

Collins will still be speaker by title until a new one is chosen on the first day of the first session of the legislature after the election. He term as MLA will end in the third week of August.