Nova Scotia

Colchester has no harrassment policy as it tackles allegation

The chief administrative officer for the Municipality of the County of Colchester has hired an independent investigator to look into an allegation of sexual harassment against an elected official.

County CAO hires independent investigator to look into accusation against councillor

The Municipality of of the County of Colchester says it is investigating a complaint of sexual harrassment made against one of its councillors. (CBC)

The chief administrative officer for the Municipality of the County of Colchester has hired an independent investigator to look into an allegation of sexual harassment against an elected official.

A female employee filed a complaint late last month based on something that was said at a municipal Christmas party by Coun. Bob Pash.

CAO Rob Simonds acknowledged in an email to CBC that the municipality does not yet have a code of conduct policy to handle the situation, but has "replicated an investigative process found in other Municipal Codes of Conduct."

According to Simonds, Colchester has retained a "qualified, experienced, third party investigator with a background in Employment and Human Rights investigations."

Once the investigation is complete the findings will go to county council.

No code of conduct

It hasn't been publicly revealed what Pash said. In a recent interview, he insisted the comment wasn't vulgar but refused to elaborate.

Colchester is one of a handful of municipalities in Nova Scotia that does not have a code of conduct or sexual harassment policy.

Both Simonds and Coun. Tom Taggart said the municipality has delayed adopting a code of conduct until the latest template developed by the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities (NSFM) is signed off on by the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs.

"In hindsight," Taggart said in an email, "we should have done this long ago."

Taggart said he has a personal interest in the issue because of "unsubstantiated accusations" directed at him in 2017, when he was accused of making Islamophobic comments in a local restaurant.

Template available since 2008

Pam Mood, the mayor of Yarmouth and president of the NSFM, said the first template for a code of conduct policy was made available in 2008.

"At the time it was adopted by more than 40 councils," said Mood. "And from 2008 up until today you can choose to write your own."

In 2017, the province made codes of conduct mandatory for municipalities, according to Mood.

"So the NSFM wants to keep up with that," said Mood. "It's not anything that a municipality has to wait for."

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