North

N.W.T. MLAs were no-shows in investigation of clerk

A heavily redacted report says despite reminders, few MLAs participated in an investigation of the Legislative Assembly's most senior bureaucrat.

Few MLAs participated in investigation of Legislative Assembly's top bureaucrat, says report on investigation

MLAs acting as the Legislative Assembly’s Board of Management commissioned an investigation after receiving complaints from Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, former chief electoral officer Nicole Latour and April Taylor, a committee advisor in the clerk’s office. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Northwest Territories MLAs were reluctant to participate in an investigation of allegations against the clerk of the legislature, according to a heavily redacted report on the investigation.

Some of those MLAs, acting as the Legislative Assembly's Board of Management, commissioned the report after receiving complaints from Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, former chief electoral officer Nicole Latour and April Taylor, a committee advisor in the clerk's office.

After the clerk, Tim Mercer, released a public statement reacting to the complaints, a fourth anonymous complainant accused him of breaching confidentiality rules by quoting from and summarizing the outcome of previous workplace investigations of harassment complaints against him.

MLAs hired Quintet Consulting to investigate the most recent complaints against Mercer and concluded the bullying complaints against him were not founded. Investigators found that Mercer had breached confidentiality rules and fell short of meeting the standards of the government employees' code of conduct.

Investigation hampered by lack of participation

Quintet said that, after reviewing statements provided by the complainants and Mercer, investigators invited 14 witnesses to participate in the investigation, but only eight agreed. The public report includes a list of those who declined or did not respond to the invitation, but the names are blacked out.

The report notes that "there was a lack of witness participation, particularly from MLAs, despite efforts and reminders."

Those who agreed to be interviewed or provided written statements included only one current MLA whose name is redacted, a former MLA whose name is redacted, four employees in the clerk's office, the legislative assembly's director of corporate services, and a third party whose name is also redacted from the public report.

There was a lack of witness participation, particularly from MLAs, despite efforts and reminders.- Quintet report

The investigators say that Norn and Latour refused to participate any further in the investigation after being interviewed. Mercer initially submitted a 33-page response to the complaints. After being given a summary of the interviews investigators did with the complainants, he submitted another 13 pages, according to the Quintet report. He was also interviewed by investigators.

Some complaints not investigated

Mercer told investigators that many of the allegations made against him by Taylor had been raised and dealt with in two previous investigations — a 2018 investigation of harassment complaints against him and a 2019 investigation of a complaint that Mercer was retaliating against an employee.

Quintet reviewed the reports on those earlier investigations and found that they had addressed "in a considerable level of detail" some of the allegations Taylor had raised in her complaint. It was determined those allegations would not be addressed in the investigation. A list of those allegations is included in the report, but is redacted in the version released to the public.

Quintet concluded that in publicly disclosing details of the reports on the previous investigations and quoting a passage in one of them, Mercer's conduct was "inconsistent with the expectations of someone in his position, and the expectations in the applicable Code of Conduct that public servants adhere to 'high ethical standards that maintain and foster public confidence.'"

It also found that the clerk mischaracterized the conclusions of one of those earlier reports when he said "...virtually all of the allegations of harassment against me were dismissed." Quintet noted that the report concluded that two allegations of harassment were valid.

The release of the investigation into the allegations against the clerk comes two weeks after the release of a parallel report Quintet did on allegations that the clerk's office is a toxic workplace. That report concluded that the workplace was not toxic, but also that it was not without serious problems that need to be addressed.

According to a confidential Legislative Assembly agenda obtained by CBC News, the costs associated with the Quintet investigation and legal fees for Mercer, Norn and Latour and was estimated at nearly $172,000.

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Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the costs associated with the clerk's office affair were estimated at $380,000. In fact, the costs associated with the Quintet investigation and legal fees were estimated at nearly $172,000.
    Sep 29, 2021 7:29 PM CT

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