Nfld. & Labrador

Dale Kirby glad harassment investigation over, but says complaints used as 'political weapon'

The report outlines interactions where Kirby and Pam Parsons apparently smoked weed in a parking lot together at the Liberal convention in 2016.

Kirby says he's been cleared of nearly all allegations, contesting one finding

Dale Kirby says the allegations have been very difficult on his family. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Dale Kirby, one of the MHAs accused of harassment in the House of Assembly says he's happy with the results of an investigation that he says clears him of almost all those accusations — with the exception of a comment during a dope-smoking incident at a party convention two years ago. 

The report of that investigation outlines a series of events between Liberal backbencher Pam Parsons and Kirby, in which the two apparently smoked marijuana together at the Liberal convention in 2016 and exchanged barbs over text message.

Reports involving Kirby and fellow former cabinet minister Eddie Joyce, both the subjects of harassment complaints brought forward by other members of the House of Assembly, will be on the agenda when the legislature reopens Tuesday afternoon for the specific purpose of considering them. 

"I've had this cloud of suspicion hanging over me for six months. I mean, I've had my name printed in articles and everything to do with domestic violence and sexual assault and so on and so forth," Kirby told CBC News in an interview on Friday, during which he he became emotional at times.

"So when I didn't engage in any kind of behaviour remotely approximating that — like I said my colleagues decided to use these harassment complaints as a political weapon to beat me over the head with. Because again, they disagreed with positions I took and my position on the leadership of the party and so on. And so I think people have a right to know," he added on why he decided to send the report to the media.

Cleared of all but 1 allegation

The report cleared Kirby of seven of eight allegations made by MHA Pam Parsons.

Kirby said in that Bruce Chaulk, the commissioner of legislative standards, said the former Liberal education minister should be reprimanded for comments attributed to him in the Parsons investigation that were regarded as inappropriate.

"If I'm going to be reprimanded, I'd like to know for what," said Kirby, who does not accept the finding and is seeking clarification from the commissioner.

Pam Parsons is the Liberal MHA for Harbour Grace-Port de Grave. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Kirby on Friday leaked the full findings of the investigation into Parsons' allegations, while Chaulk said he would not be commenting on the report.

Parsons also filed a complaint against Kirby referencing a "social" event at the Liberal annual general meeting in 2016. 

In the leaked report, Parsons said Kirby told her he "wanted to get along with me" and said "you are beautiful and I love you."  Kirby also evidently told Parsons: "And I want us to work together, but you have to stop being so vocal." 

Parsons said he suggested she not present a petition on behalf of her constituents, because "it would be harmful politically to the premier."

Parsons said the comment did not feel sexual, but "was more patronizing," the report states, adding that she found it "strange."

'Violation of my personal privacy'

Kirby said Parsons had "asked me if I wanted to smoke marijuana with her," and the two went to the parking lot to smoke.

[Comments] should, however, be understood in the context of the two of us smoking marijuana in the parking lot of Hotel Gander during the Liberal convention.- Dale Kirby, quoted in report

"I do not recall making the comments she attributes to me but I also do not dispute them," Kirby is quoted as saying in the report.

"They should, however, be understood in the context of the two of us smoking marijuana in the parking lot of Hotel Gander during the Liberal convention."

The report states that Kirby said he "might have said the he loved the complainant in 'an aging punk rocker 1980s way,' adding that he has been married for 15 years."

"This wasn't a serious conversation. We were smoking weed," the report quotes Kirby saying. "It's absurd."

Bruce Chaulk, the commissioner of legislative standards, has not commented on the report. (CBC)

So was Kirby smoking weed with Parsons at the AGM two years ago?

"I'm not going to get into that. But what I will say is that I just think that that report in part is a violation of my personal privacy. I didn't provide Bruce Chaulk with any permission to be you know writing about my personal life in that way," Kirby said Friday.

"I didn't give Bruce Chaulk any carte blanche. I was trying to be cooperative and tell the truth so that the truth would come out. But I had no idea he'd be, you know, delving into my personal life. I mean I just think it's inappropriate."

When pressed on whether he thinks his constituents would want to know he was smoking marijuana before it was legalized, Kirby responded, "I'm not going to get into it, you know."

Kirby said in his release Friday that he looks forward to continuing to serve his constituents, meaning he will not be stepping down as MHA.

However, it is unclear whether Kirby will be allowed to return to the Liberal caucus.

Christmas break 2016

After the House of Assembly closed for the break in 2016, members of the Liberal Caucus went as a group to the Grumpy Stump, a pub that has since changed names, according to the report. 

During the outing Kirby had allegedly "put two rounds of drinks" on Parson's tab. 

Parsons, who didn't authorize use of her tab for anyone but herself, was informed by two other patrons of the bar that evening. 

In the report Parson's claims, "It is my submission that this action, intended to bully, harass, belittle, control and demean, is a violation of Principles 1, 3, 4, 5 and 11, as well as fraudulent, and arguably illegal."

During Kirby's interview he denied the claim, adding he did not have much to drink that night because he takes a painkiller for chronic pain.

Minister Andrew Parsons, who was an alleged witness to Kirby placing the order on the tab, said in the report that he had no recollection of the incident whatsoever.

Read the full report that Dale Kirby leaked on Friday. 

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Cleared in August

Earlier this year, Kirby, as well as former cabinet minister Eddie Joyce, were ejected from the Liberal caucus amid allegations of bullying and harassment.

MHA Colin Holloway is one of two MHAs who filed complaints against Kirby, as well as against Eddie Joyce. Holloway's allegations were cleared in August. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Fellow Liberal MHAs Colin Holloway and Pam Parsons filed complaints against the two senior Liberal MHAs, who were also cabinet ministers at the time.

Holloway said he was bullied, intimidated and harassed by Kirby and Joyce.

In August, a report cleared them of wrongdoing in Holloway's complaint.

At that time, Holloway said he was surprised and disappointed by the results of that probe, which stated coarse comments were par for the course in provincial politics.

Greater impact 

Kirby said the leaked report cost the tax payers of Newfoundland and Labrador more than $100,000, adding it was a campaign of hostility and that he believes people in the province have a right to know what they're paying for.

"If you say harassment in a current sort of environment that we live in, everything goes through people's minds, so I just think it's unfortunate. I wasn't the person they hurt the most," Kirby said, admitting his mom likely was hurt more by the report and the attention showed toward Kirby.

"I'm not sure they really thought too much about who the casualties were. They were at my house a month beforehand in March, so they know I have a seven-year-old son, they know my wife."

As for the general election looming in less than a year, Kirby said he's not sure whether or not events will have an impact, and there has to be a change to the way issues are resolved going forward.

"Looking back I tried to be as honest as possible, and be as cooperative as possible, but if I had have known that my personal information would be sort of carelessly and casually thrown out there in the public domain in this report ... regardless of me releasing this report this is going to be tabled in the House of Assembly."

With files from Stephanie Tobin and Jeremy Eaton

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