Yellowknife mayor, councillors mum on outcome of investigation into bylaw department
3-paragraph summary is all the public will see of investigator’s report, city says
Yellowknife's mayor, council and senior administrative officer are refusing to talk about the outcome of an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing against the city's longtime manager of municipal enforcement.
The investigation found it is "more likely than not" that security cameras on city facilities were misused within the municipal enforcement division in and around 2014, according to a summary of the investigator's report that the city released late Tuesday.
The summary is three paragraphs long.
Council called for the investigation in January, after CBC News and the Yellowknifer newspaper published allegations from former municipal enforcement employees that the then- and current manager of municipal enforcement, Doug Gillard, openly used his office computer to pan and zoom the security cameras to surreptitiously look at women he found attractive.
Though it says the investigation concluded the security cameras were likely misused, the summary of the investigation does not say how, or by whom, the cameras were misused.
Due to the highly confidential nature of human resource matters, the City cannot comment on specific details of the investigation.- Kerry Penney, lawyer for City of Yellowknife
All councillors, mayor refuse interview with CBC
CBC News contacted all eight city councillors by email and, where numbers were available, by phone.
None were willing to be interviewed about the outcome of the investigation. Neither Mayor Mark Heyck nor senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett agreed to an interview.
A staffer at the municipal enforcement division said Gillard was not in on Wednesday, and he did not respond to an email from CBC.
After failing to get interviews, CBC submitted written questions to Bassi-Kellett.
The city's lawyer, Kerry Penney, responded with many answers limited to, "Due to the highly confidential nature of human resource matters, the City cannot comment on specific details of the investigation."
In the email, Penney said the three-paragraph summary is all that the public will see of the investigator's report.
No privacy laws prohibit this information: privacy commissioner
The city will not identify who likely misused the security cameras. It won't even say how many pages long the investigator's report is, or whether the investigator interviewed Gillard's immediate superiors at the time — public safety director Dennis Marchiori and then-senior administrative officer Dennis Kefalas.
Marchiori and Kefalas left their employment with the city shortly after the inquiry began.
Several councillors also cited the "highly confidential" nature of personnel matters as their reason for not doing an interview.
There are no privacy laws that prohibit the city from talking about personnel matters, according to the territory's privacy commissioner, Elaine Keenan-Bengts.
If the employer can demonstrate that the allegations are true, and the actions of the employee are egregious, the employer is going to be shielded from liability.- Drew Jarisz, employment lawyer from Taylor Janis LLP
She pointed out that she's been recommending for years that the territory's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act apply to the City of Yellowknife and other municipalities in the N.W.T., but MLAs have not implemented that recommendation.
Keenan-Bengts added that federal privacy laws apply to commercial businesses, not public governments such as municipalities.
Safer for employer to 'do it quietly': lawyer
Deputy mayor Adrian Bell said he has concerns about the lack of transparency, but he understands that the law firm overseeing the investigation and city staff "are being careful to not expose the city to liability."
A employment lawyer said the city is likely refusing to say anything out of an abundance of caution.
"If the city goes public with the allegations against an employee and the allegations are subsequently found to be untrue, then the city opens themselves up to a defamation action against them, and liability for that can be significant," said Drew Jarisz of the Alberta-based firm Taylor Janis LLP.
"If the employer can demonstrate that the allegations are true, and the actions of the employee are egregious, the employer is going to be shielded from liability," he added.
"Employers may not want to do that even if they believe they have cause to dismiss the individual. It's safer for them to do it quietly."
The city said given the finding that security cameras were likely misused, it is seeking legal advice about what its next steps should be.
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