Mayor accused of violating City’s harassment policy

Mike Bradley 'harassed and bullied' staff, including current City Manager

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, pictured at City Hall, is said to have engaged in workplace harassment and bullying of several senior staff, three of whom have left, and the current city manager.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has been singled out by an investigator hired by the City’s external legal counsel as someone who “engaged in a course of vexatious comments and conduct which created a poisoned work environment.”

As a result of the report and two subsequent closed door meetings, City Council has directed staff to take immediate steps “to promote a safe work environment,” said Andre Morin, who is acting city manager.

Morin told Lambton Shield following the release of the report (by e-mail at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Friday, October 7, 2016), that he could not be more specific as to what a background information report attached to the e-mail called “certain immediate steps,” although he did say that more details would be forthcoming at an October 24, 2016 meeting of City Council.

Morin, the City engineer, was appointed at the beginning of the year as deputy to City manager Marg Misek-Evans, one of the complainants in the investigation. Morin said he has been taking on that role not only while Evans is away (she returns from vacation next Thursday) but “specifically regarding this particular issue.”

Other complainants in the investigation are Jane Cooper, former director of planning and building; Beth Gignac, former director of parks and recreation; and Nancy Wright-Laking, former city clerk.

The 43-page report was authored by Lauren Bernardi, who runs a firm specializing in human resource law. Bernardi was engaged by the City’s external counsel, Jamie Knight, a partner in Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP. Knight was authorized by City Council to hire an external investigator, which the background document said was “an appropriate and normal process in a situation like this, featuring multiple complaints and allegations against the Head of Council [in this case, Mayor Bradley].”

The entire report, which has been ‘slightly redacted’ to protect the identity of third parties, can be downloaded from the City’s web site.

In the report, Bernardi outlined not only her qualifications as an investigator specializing in workplace issues but the definition of harassment and an outline of the “psychology of workplace harassment.” Bernardi said in her report that workplace bullying “is a form of abuse that is characterized by the use of power and aggression to control or distress another individual within the context of a workplace relationship.”

Bernardi rejected “the notion of harassment as simply a strong management style,” adding that “employee performance can be managed in an appropriate manner without resort to either disrespect or outright abusive tactics.”

Bernardi said in the report that while she did not interview every witness submitted, “I did interview those whose evidence was essential to the allegations.”

She also said she “does not normally meet with character witnesses as such evidence is of limited productive value.”

Asked for a comment on the report Bradley sent a “Letter to the People of Sarnia” along with a copy of the response he made publicly following the June 28, 2016 release of a report issued by the City’s Integrity Commissioner.

In today’s “public letter” (downloadable) Bradley called the latest report “Double Jeopardy.”

Bradley said “there was no attempt to find a third way to resolve or mediate the issues,” adding that he had made an offer to do so.

Bradley also complained of City Council having “denied me, under the Indemnification By-law, any legal advice or assistance, despite knowing that all the allegations are based on my role as Mayor.”

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