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Reason for Dissolving the Town’s Heritage Committee

Report to:             Mayor R.N. Bentley and Members of Grimsby Town Council
Date:                      13 July 2017
Subject:                Reasons for Dissolving the Town’s Heritage Committee

Resolved that Report TM-17-13 dated July 13, 2017 be received and that the resolution contained herein be approved.

At the June 19, 2017 Council meeting, the Mayor requested that the Town Manager look into the possibility of releasing the independent investigator’s report that concluded that Town staff had been subjected to workplace harassment the Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee. Staff do not recommend that the investigator’s report be released for the reasons outlined in this Report.

On 15 August 2016 the Town Manager approved of retaining the services of The Employers’ Choice Inc. to conduct a workplace investigation regarding the Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee and allegations of harassment. This firm was founded by three lawyers who were practicing in the area of labour and employment law. The firm employs both lawyers and human resource management professionals which allows for the provision of human resource consultant work that is both practical and legally defensible, important elements of any workplace investigation. The Town only uses this firm for conducting workplace violence and harassment investigations. An extensive investigation was conducted and hard copies of the investigation report for Council were hand delivered to Members of Council on Thursday, 15 September 2016.

Immediate action was called for by the investigator to rectify an unsafe working environment that had been created with the Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee. Council responded with the speed requested of the investigator by dissolving the heritage committee.

Staff wishes to thank Council for this decision. Council demonstrated with this decision that our people are our greatest asset. Staff recognize that Council took some criticism for taking this step to protect staff but most people in the community were not aware of the serious reasons that led to this decision. And the Town’s intention since dissolving the heritage committee has always been to take a pause and then re-establish the committee.

It’s not easy dealing with labour relations in an organization that should be transparent and accountable. Releasing the investigator’s report would help give more light to the serious reasons why Council chose to dissolve the committee. However, most or all of the information in such reports should normally remain private because they contain personal and confidential information that should not normally be released to the public.

Staff recommend that the original course be stayed: dissolve the committee, take a pause, re-establish the committee. The Town of Grimsby’s relative commitment to heritage cannot be matched by the overwhelming majority of municipalities in Ontario. The Town’s planning staff has an approach that is very focussed on the value of heritage and individual Members of Council often speak to the importance of the Town’s heritage.

Heritage is important in Grimsby. That the Town of Grimsby was named the 2015 winner of the prestigious Prince of Wales heritage award is but one testament to the great work the Town has done in preserving its heritage.

Dissolving the heritage committee had nothing to do with a lack of commitment to heritage and everything to do with an unsafe work environment. Staff have a right to be free from bullying in the workplace, to be treated civilly and to be free from constant scorn or contempt. Council unanimously voted to dissolve the committee because of the unsafe working conditions and Council recently unanimously voted to re-establish the new heritage committee. Stay the course.

The terms of reference of the new committee were updated based on new legislation as well as a recommendation from the investigator. There is no role the previous committee had that the new committee does not also have. It is staff’s anticipation and hope that the new committee will challenge the Town with new ideas when necessary but will also work harmoniously with Town Council and staff. It is possible for reasonable individuals to disagree civilly and continue to work harmoniously together. Occasional disagreement need not inevitably lead to belittlement and harassment. Town Council, Town staff and members of the heritage committee had achieved great works in preserving the Town’s heritage; staff believe that can continue again.

Suggested Resolution
Whereas the Town engaged the services of an independent investigator who concluded that Town staff were subjected to harassment and bullying with the Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee; and,

Whereas the investigator recommended that Town Council take immediate action; and,

Whereas in response to the investigator’s report and findings and the impact the harassment had on Town staff, Town Council found it necessary to dissolve the Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee; and

Whereas the Town is committed to preserving its heritage and has re-established its heritage committee, as originally intended, with the same role and an updated terms of reference; and,

Whereas the Town is very fortunate to have hard-working, conscientious, dedicated and creative employees in all departments.

Therefore be it resolved that the Council of the Town of Grimsby commits to taking the steps necessary to ensure it provides its employees with a workplace free of harassment and bullying; and,

Be it further resolved that the Council of the Town of Grimsby receives Report TM-17-13 and directs that this resolution be posted to the Town’s website and social media along with a link to Report TM-17-13 so that the reasons why the heritage committee was dissolved are made known to the public.

Brandt, Town Manager

pdf Reasons for Dissolving the Town's Heritage Committee

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