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Departure of key figures raises questions about Yellowknife bylaw inquiry

The departure of key players and narrowing of the scope of an inquiry into allegations against Yellowknife’s manager of municipal enforcement has thrown into question the value of the investigation.

SAO says not certain Kefalas, Marchiori will have to answer any questions about handling of 2014 complaint

Dennis Kefalas, left, and Dennis Marchiori both announced their departures from the City of Yellowknife this week. Kefalas was the city’s senior administrative officer at the time of a 2014 complaint and oversaw the investigation of it. Marchiori was the city’s Public Safety Director, and responsible for the Municipal Enforcement Division, during the same period. (CBC)

The departure of key players and the narrowing of the scope of an inquiry into allegations against Yellowknife's manager of municipal enforcement has thrown into question the value of the investigation.

"I think their legal counsel has done a great job of covering up the city's problems," said former municipal enforcement officer Doug Norrad, who worked in the department from 1999 to 2012.

Doug Norrad worked for the City of Yellowknife's municipal enforcement division from 1999 to 2012. He says he was also a target of bullying and harassment by the division's longtime manager. (Richard Gleeson/CBC)
Norrad was fired after years of tensions with municipal enforcement manager Doug Gillard, including an RCMP investigation of allegations Gillard made that Norrad stole money from city parking meters. The investigation exonerated Norrad, after the investigator found there was not even any evidence money had gone missing. Norrad later won a wrongful dismissal settlement from the city.

Norrad says he was a target of the bullying and harassment the inquiry is supposed to be looking into, but says he does not anticipate being questioned by the investigator.

Norrad says the departure of former senior administrative officer Dennis Kefalas and public safety director Dennis Marchiori will have a big impact on the inquiry.

"They're getting a get out of jail free card and they are running," said Norrad.

Narrowed scope

When Coun. Adrian Bell initiated it three months ago, he and the rest of council called for an inquiry "into the allegations of workplace misconduct within the municipal enforcement division that have been brought to council's attention as well as how those allegations were investigated."

Bell's motion came on the heels of reports in both the Yellowknifer newspaper and CBC documenting complaints by former municipal enforcement officers who had worked for the city as recently as 2014. They alleged that manager Doug Gillard bullied municipal enforcement officers, slapped them in the groin, openly made highly inappropriate sexual comments about a female city staffer, and used security cameras on city facilities to eye women he found attractive.

The inquiry focuses on allegations concerning Doug Gillard, the head of Yellowknife's Municipal Enforcement Division. However, despite numerous allegations reported in the media, it initially was narrowed to focus on one formal complaint made in 2014 by a former officer. (CBC)
But after unanimously passing Bell's motion, council later narrowed the inquiry to one formal complaint made by a former officer in 2014. Bell referred CBC to the city's senior administrative officer, saying she is the contact person for the inquiry.

How was it that a motion unanimously passed by council morphed into something smaller?

"I'm not at liberty to say," said the city's senior administrative officer, Sheila Bassi-Kellett. Kellett said the terms of reference were developed in closed confidential meetings with council and were approved by council.

Later, council realized that one of the key allegations reported in the news stories — the misuse of security cameras — was not included in that one 2014 complaint. It expanded the inquiry to look into that allegation as well.

No power to compel employees to answer questions

This week, City Hall announced the departure of Dennis Kefalas and Dennis Marchiori. Kefalas was the city's senior administrative officer at the time of the 2014 complaint and oversaw the investigation of it. Dennis Marchiori was the city's Public Safety Director, and responsible for the Municipal Enforcement Division, during the same period.

Will they have to answer any questions related to the inquiry before they go?

City of Yellowknife SAO Sheila Bassi-Kellett says she's 'not prepared to answer' whether Kefalas or Marchiori will have to answer questions related to the inquiry before they go, and that the law firm contracted by the city is still finalizing its methodology. (Garrett Hinchey/CBC)
"I'm not prepared to answer that at this time," said Bassi-Kellett. "I'm not certain because Miller Thompson [the law firm the city contracted to oversee the inquiry] is finalizing the methodology for the official inquiry."

The city required Miller Thompson to sign a confidentiality agreement. Because the inquiry is to be independent, city council has limited say in how it is conducted. It's unclear how much, if anything, of what it finds will be shared with the public.

One thing is certain: the investigator will have no authority to compel anyone to answer questions.

"This isn't an official legal process, so the ability to subpoena does not exist," said Bassi-Kellett.

The city has turned over records related to the inquiry to Miller Thompson. Because it is an independent inquiry, the city is leaving it up to the law firm to decide how to investigate the allegations.

"If Miller Thompson wants to talk to people, they will make that determination as part of the methodology for the official inquiry," said Bassi-Kellett.

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