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Harassment, conflict investigations costly for Marystown


The bills are starting to come in for the Town of Marystown’s harassment claims.

Marystown municipal centre

During Tuesday night’s finance committee report, council approved an invoice payment to Goss Gilroy Inc. for $30,382.

Finance committee chairman and Deputy Mayor Al Spencer said the charge was for human resources consultant services in relation to the claims.

Several harassment claims were filed earlier this year involving the mayor, councillors and staff.

While council approved the payment, it didn’t go without some discussion on the matter.

According to Mayor Sam Synard, the town has paid between $65,000 and $70,000 so far this year on consultant and legal fees for services he called “outside the norm.”

That includes the recent Goss Gilroy invoice, the Goodland O’Flaherty report that investigated conflict of interest claims against Synard, and other fees, he said.

Responding to the Synard’s comments, Coun. Leonard Pittman pointed out the town spent more than $100,000 on engineering work for a since-scuttled roundabout that he claimed councillors had only initially approved because they had been misled it was the only option.

“This bill is going to come in at a much higher rate in the future,” Synard said, referring to the fees to investigate the harassment claims.

The escalating fees weren’t Synard’s only gripe Tuesday.

For a second time during the meeting, Synard expressed concern about voting to pay for work or services without being provided more background information on how the money was spent.

That started up a discussion about a recent document from Goss Gilroy about the investigation.

Coun. Darlene LaFosse Blagdon said only the four council members not tangled up in the harassment claims – herself, Deputy Mayor Al Spencer, Coun. Ruby Hoskins and Coun. Mary Beth Farrell – had seen the report. Synard, Pittman, Coun. Lisa Slaney, as well as several staff members have filed claims or had claims filed against them.

“Anyone else would have to go through the proper channels to get it. This is what we were told, and I followed the procedure,” she said.

“This is dealing with two people, and reputations, and these are matters that are supposed to be confined within council. There’s information that you don’t put out when it comes to HR issues.”

There was talk on seeking a legal opinion on who can see the document.

Synard said he strongly believed people named in reports have a right to view them.

Slaney said she had not seen the document and had no interest in doing so.

“I’m going to trust that the other four people are taking the necessary steps and precautions and seeking the right advice, and that all I can do,” she said.

Earlier in the finance report, council deferred a motion to pay an invoice due to Synard’s objections more information should be provided.

That $816.29 bill was from McInnis Cooper for consultation fees also identified as related to human resources issues. When Synard pressed for more details, none of the councillors or staff could say exactly what was involved.

“You’ve got to realize that there’s confidentiality issues here,” Pittman said.

Synard complained he has had trouble getting background details on basic information involving the town and has had to file access to information requests.

“A lot of that can be alleviated if you went to the committee meetings,” Hoskins said.

pherridge@southerngazette.ca

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