Investigator rules allegations against clerk of N.W.T. mostly 'unfounded'
'I am pleased with the findings of this investigation and accept them fully,' says Tim Mercer
In an independent review of a top unelected territorial official, three of four complaints of bullying and harassment were determined to be unfounded.
The fourth – which alleged clerk of the legislature Tim Mercer breached confidentiality rules – was found to have merit.
In a statement sent by Mercer to Cabin Radio, and not CBC North, a few hours after the results of the review were made public, he said, "I am pleased with the findings of the investigation and accept them fully."
Nicole Bonnell, manager of public affairs and communication for the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, confirmed the statement was released directly by Mercer.
"The Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly was not party to the drafting nor the distribution of Mr. Mercer's statement," Bonnell wrote in an email. "He remains on administrative leave until next steps are considered by the Board of Management."
Mercer was accused of publicly humiliating employees and not being able to control his temper.
Earlier this year, others in the assembly called on Mercer to resign, alleging he has created a toxic work environment at the legislature.
In March, Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting – the same company that looked into allegations against former Governor General Julie Payette – was hired to investigate the matter.
The results were disclosed Thursday following a three day discussion within the Board of Management from Aug. 23 - 25, 2021. The report itselt is dated Aug. 20.
The complainants were Steve Norn, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, April Taylor, a committee advisor who works in the clerk's officer, Nicole Latour, chief electoral officer of the Legislative assembly and a complainant who was not named in the summary report.
The unnamed complainant was the only case investigators deemed "founded."
Mercer accepts findings
In his statement, Mercer wrote that when the allegations against him were made public last February, he issued a public statement that quoted from one of two previous reports looking into similar allegations against him in 2018, particularly as it related to the allegations brought forward by April Taylor in the current investigation. Both 2018 investigations deemed allegations against Mercer to be unfounded.
He said he made his "best effort not to identify anyone other than Ms. Taylor in this statement," but the fourth unnamed complainant took issue with it and filed an additional complaint against him.
"It was not my intention to cause anyone harm by quoting from this [previous] report. I accept the findings of the investigators in this regard and apologize to both Ms. Taylor and anyone else who was involved in the 2018 investigation for referencing its findings in my own defence," he wrote in his statement.
Investigators found that much of the evidence gathered around the unnamed complainant's allegation that Mercer breached privacy rules was undisputed, and that Mercer's conduct was "found to be inconsistent with the applicable Code of Conduct and with the letter and spirit of the confidentiality requirements of the Harassment Free and Respectful Workplace Policy."
The report notes, however, that the Harassment Free and Respectful Workplace Policy does not apply to the fourth complainant.
The report acknowledges that the allegations had a clear impact on those involved.
"In addition to occurring in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, the events under investigation occurred within a unique consensus government system, in the aftermath of previously concluded harassment investigations, and very much in the public domain," Quintet Consulting writes in the report.
"We believe that these factors all led to the exceptional nature of the situation."
Mercer said in his statement that the six and a half months since the allegations were made public "have been difficult" for him, his family, a close network of friends and staff of the Legislative Assembly.
"I will be taking some time now to review the report in detail and to spend time with my family. I look forward to putting this matter behind me and moving on with my career in a productive way."
Mercer ended his statement by saying he would not be making any further comment on the matter.
Mercer has been clerk of the legislature since 2003. As clerk he is responsible for advising MLAs on the rules of the Legislative Assembly as well as their pensions and benefits. He also provides advice and written statements to the Speaker on issues, such as points of order, arising during sittings of the legislature. The clerk also oversees an office that provides research and administrative assistance to MLAs and their standing committees and manages the public communications functions of the legislature.
With files from Michel Proulx