Regina City Councilmen, accused of harassing the city manager, want an investigation into the province
A strained relationship between two Regina councilors and the city manager has grown even thinner after the mayor accused the councilors of harassment, and it’s not clear what mechanisms the city has to resolve the dispute.
Regina Ward 3 County. Andrew Stevens and Ward 6 Coun. Dan LeBlanc is now calling for a third-party investigation.
The two men say that city manager Niki Anderson has tarnished their reputation and that the city is failing to comply with its own harassment investigation guidelines.
“I would actually urge the provincial government and occupational health and safety to actually investigate and investigate this,” Stevens said in an interview this week.
“I think it would clear my name.”
Quarrel at City Hall
The dispute began late last year during the first discussions on the municipal budget. Niki Anderson had recently assumed her role as city manager.
LeBlanc, who is also an attorney, represented Stevens and another community member when they filed a lawsuit against Anderson to force her office to include an item in the 2023 city budget detailing the cost of ending homelessness.
While this lawsuit would ultimately fail, the fallout from it has yet to subside.
On February 8, the council voted to remove LeBlanc from his position on the board of directors of Community and Social Impact Regina. LeBlanc said the removal felt like political retaliation.
During the related debate, Masters described LeBlanc, who filed the lawsuit and posted the exchanges with Anderson on social media, as “harassment” and a violation of the council’s code of ethics.
A day later, Anderson held a press conference in which she expressed similar feelings — although she didn’t use the term harassment — and said there was no way her relationship with the two council members could be repaired.
“I am publicly confirming today that since the lawsuit, I have not had any dealings with Coun. Stevens still with Coun. I met and will meet LeBlanc alone,” she said.
“Very serious allegation”
LeBlanc and Stevens have denied any allegations of harassment or bullying, saying the February 8 council meeting was the first time they had heard of concerns of this nature.
“I mean, that’s a very serious allegation,” LeBlanc said this week. “Harassment is a legal word with a legal meaning and legal implications, and there are processes that need to be followed to get to the bottom of it to see if this is warranted.”
According to Mayor Masters, the nature of the complaint has clouded waters about the way forward.
“There is no roadmap for elected officials in relation to a city council on how to deal with a specific case like this,” she told media on Wednesday. “That’s what we’re trying to work through.”
This week, LeBlanc and Stevens raised concerns that city policy is not being followed.
Provincial legislation requires employers in Saskatchewan to develop their own harassment policies.
The latest version of the city’s policy states that various directors, employees and even the Department of Occupational Health and Safety have a duty to ensure “the confidentiality of the complaint and of the parties involved.”
If a complaint against someone triggers an investigation, that person must be informed, the policy says. That hasn’t happened yet, according to LeBlanc and Stevens.
In a statement after this story was first published, the City of Regina said its harassment policy and its respectful workplace policy apply to all employees, including the city manager.
“In these particular circumstances, it would be unlikely that the [harassment policy would be the governing policy]as this policy does not apply to city council members,” the statement said.
Instead, the city refers to its municipal code of ethics, which governs council members. Complaints may be directed to the City Integrity Officer. It is not clear if anyone has made such a complaint in this case as they are confidential.
“That is my concern [Niki Anderson’s] The press conference was supposed to solicit and convene a complaint from the integrity officer, maybe in public, and that worries me because it basically led us to use language that, for the most part, hasn’t been backed up by evidence,” Stevens said.
The mayor did not remain silent in the debate. She said a council HR subcommittee will continue to meet with Anderson about her concerns.
“We recognize that Miss Anderson has been placed in a difficult situation,” Masters said.
A provincial solution
It is possible that the province could help in the situation, as council members have requested.
The Department of Labor says workers can contact the anti-discrimination division if they have concerns about harassment.
That unit is staffed by occupational health professionals who, according to the province’s website, can investigate and interview anyone they think may provide information about an “allegation of harassment.”