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Bancroft council hears Integrity Commissioner’s report on allegations of workplace harassment after a nearly two-year investigation

Integrity Commissioner Nigel Bellchamber concluded that former Bancroft Councillor Bill Kilpatrick did harass the complainant that filed a code of conduct violation against him in March 2018.

A special council meeting was held Wednesday to discuss the report.

“After a 20 plus month investigation I had hoped for a more thorough, and in-depth report, but instead we have a report that seriously lacks context and vital information and facts that would give a far more complete picture of what happened and more importantly why it happened,” Kilpatrick says in a statement to My Bancroft Now. He adds that investigation should have taken 90 days, not over 20 months.

Kilpatrick notes 21 allegations were filed against him, but none were addressed in the report by Bellchamber. “There is no specific information or evidence regarding any of these allegations, and this lack of specificity prevents not only myself, but future members of Council from avoiding behaviour that could be considered harassment,” he says. “I believe that without those facts the truth cannot be ascertained and preventing issues like these in the future will be unlikely.”

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Included in Bellchamber’s report were recommendations for how to avoid a situation like this happening in the future. Mayor of Bancroft Paul Jenkins says council agrees with the message behind the recommendations calling for more training and to ensure that staff are treated respectfully at all times.

Six of the 10 recommendations made by Bellchamber dealt with improved or additional training for council members and community members that join committees. Jenkins noted during a special council meeting on Wednesday that what was recommended is already part of procedure.

Councillor Wayne Wiggins and Deputy Mayor Charles Mullet pointed out that the Town could improve on what is already being done for training.

“The real tragedy here is that none of this needed to happen,” Kilpatrick says of the allegations. “There was ample opportunity presented that could have both allowed the former CAO to address issues that she had with me and avoid a formal complaint. I also believe that we could have avoided the current lawsuit filed by the former CAO.” He says mediation was agreed to by him and the complainant in December 2017, but never happened for unspecified reasons.

Bellchamber also noted how he was unable to schedule a time with Kilpatrick to interview him due to reasons not mentioned in his report. Kilpatrick provided two doctors notes saying he was “totally disabled” for six weeks starting in February 2018 and again for six weeks starting in April 2018. Kilpatrick says once he was back on his feet he called Bellchamber’s office three times and involved the Ombudsman’s office as well to try and schedule an interview.

He says the interview with Bellchamber occurred in April 2019. “These are not the actions of someone who was “temporarily unavailable” and who “eventually agreed” to be interviewed, but instead these are the actions of someone who wanted to be interviewed and heard,” Kilpatrick says.

Bellchamber suggested the Town look to bring in a new CAO for his 10th recommendation. Jenkins believes this was “outside the scope of this investigation.” Former CAO Hazel Lambe was let go in July 2018 as a part of what the Town called a “reorganization process.” The Town’s new Integrity Commissioner John Ewart commented that the CAO is not a mandatory position and is up to the individual municipalities to determine if that position is necessary.

Ewart called the recommendation “not a proper comment.”

“I think the most valuable thing that came out of it was that councillors fully understand their role and what their limitations are,” Jenkins says of the recommendations. He adds that while council has changed since the investigation began, the recommendations provide a “framework” so if a similar situation happens in the future council and staff have a benchmark for how it should be handled.

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