UPDATE 02/18: It has been clarified as to what report former Bancroft CAO Hazel Lambe is calling to be released. In a previous version, it was stated she was calling for Integrity Commissioner Nigel Bellchamber’s report to be released.
Former Bancroft CAO Hazel Lambe is calling for Bancroft council to release the full report done by the Town’s Solicitor in mid-2018 confirming a “poisoned work environment” to go along with harassment Lambe alleges was common within Bancroft’s municipal office. That report has yet to be released.
When reached for comment, former Bancroft councillor Bill Kilpatrick also hopes to see the full report released, noting that he’s been fighting for the full report to be released since April 2018. “I want the full report released so the people of Bancroft can see and judge for themselves regarding the allegations that were levelled against me for trying to do my job as a councillor,” he says.
Kilpatrick was found to have breached council’s code of conduct in Integrity Commissioner Nigel Bellchamber’s report that was released in November 2019. The complainant was not named in the report. No punishment was possible due to his March 2018 resignation from council.
Kilpatrick added he’s filed Freedom of Information requests, including ones with Lambe when she was CAO of Bancroft and with Clerk Lianne Sauter. He says both times his requests were rejected.
“Council took no action to protect their staff even though council members frequently acknowledged and discussed amongst themselves and staff the harassment that was taking place,” Lambe says in her statement. “Council were [sic] clearly aware and have acknowledged that they were aware of ongoing staff harassment and a poisoned work environment yet they took no action to remedy and to this date have failed to publicly release the first investigation report provided to them by the Town solicitor in 2018.”
When asked for a comment on the allegations Lambe made about the environment at the council table, Jenkins said he is not able to because “it is before the courts.”
“Council had been informed early in its term of its Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy and its purposes, and its role under the Municipal Act but failed to fully appreciate its responsibility to provide a safe work environment for the complainant and for all employees,” Bellchamber said in his report. He added that council did not act quickly enough when the harassment complaints were made against Kilpatrick.
Bellchamber also asked those who were on council at the time the harassment claim was made why action was not taken quicker when the harassment was taking place. Bellchamber says one councillor said they did not realize it was happening at the time, with another pointing out that they are working on a way to prevent harassment like this from happening in the future.
“We believe that these responses were inadequate,” Bellchamber said.
“It was an ongoing occurrence that (then- CAO Lambe) was receiving harassment complaints from her staff against actions of Council,” Lambe says. She says she did inform council of the Town staff’s concerns and the breaches of the Code of Conduct and Occupational Health and Safety Act but says their response was “negative and disrespectful.” Despite that, Lambe says she acted on staff’s concerns under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and initiated a complaint on behalf of herself and staff.
“That is news to me and everyone else on council at that time,” Kilpatrick says in response.
“Council was trained every year about harassment and what it was, yet seven people didn’t even notice that it was allegedly happening when it was ‘common.'” Kilpatrick says what Lambe is saying “doesn’t make any sense,” adding that he doesn’t believe harassment was “common” during his time on council.
Another recommendation in Bellchamber’s report dealt with council and committee members understanding what their roles and responsibilities are. Lambe says that when Bernice Jenkins was Mayor of Bancroft she made “many attempts” to educate council members of those roles and responsibilities. “When council made disparaging comments about process, in my role as CAO/Clerk I informed council that their by-laws and policies can be changed by them by giving staff direction at an open meeting of council,” Lambe says. She says council took no steps to do that. “Every possible effort to educate Council was made including making of arrangements for outside professional and ministry advice and education,” she adds.
Lambe continues saying how it’s surprising that Mayor of Bancroft Paul Jenkins relied on reorganization to resolve workplace harassment. “This was never communicated to me by the Mayor or any other member of council,” she says. Lambe alleges that Jenkins was looking to redefine her position as CAO, but never gave her clarification on why it was happening and how her role might change.
Lambe was let go as part of what was called a “reorganization process” in July 2018 before any changes were made to the CAO position.
At the end of her statement, Lambe again calls for the Town Solicitor’s report to be released. She says that council should at least give an explanation as to why they aren’t releasing the report looking into “a very serious matter.”