SARNIA, Ont. — An investigation has found the mayor of Sarnia, Ont., engaged in workplace harassment involving four city employees.
A 43-page workplace investigation report by Mississauga, Ont., human resources lawyer Lauren Bernardi finds Mike Bradley harassed and bullied all four complainants.
The report says the harassment involved verbal abuse, psychological abuse, supervisory abuse and character assassination.
Acting city manager Andre Morin said Friday that council has met at two special closed meetings to discuss the Sept. 19 report and recommendations.
Morin says city staff has been directed to take certain unspecified steps and to provide several reports for a council meeting on Oct. 24, which will consider the implementation of recommendations stemming from the report's findings.
The report concludes the harassment was not a matter of the complainants being unable to stand the pressures of their jobs, a question of a strong leadership style, or Bradley not understanding the boundaries of his role.
"I find that Mayor Bradley deliberately bullied and harassed the complainants, repeatedly and throughout their employment," Bernardi states in the report.
"Even if there were legitimate performance concerns with the complainants, and there is no evidence to support that notion, it would still not justify the mayor's abusive and demeaning behaviour," she said.
The four complainants were Margaret Misek-Evans, city manager, former director of planning and building Jane Cooper, former director of parks and recreation Beth Gignac, and former city clerk Nancy Wright-Laking.
Bernardi found Bradley engaged in "hostile and disrespectful behaviour" towards Misek-Evans, and was "persistently verbally abusive" to her and berated her with numerous accusations, both publicly and privately.
The report notes Bradley did not deny making comments about Misek-Evans, but tried to explain that, to him, "she was condescending, often looked bored, and gave the impression of being a know-it-all."
The report says Bradley openly criticized Cooper's performance to other city staff and to the public.
In an interview, "Bradley attempted to justify his comment by stating that it was just an observation, not a criticism," Bernardi wrote.
Wright-Laking said Bradley repeatedly ignored and ostracized her, and would turn his back to her when she spoke to him.
Wright-Laking also provided a chain of emails that started on Nov. 3, 2014, in which she asks Bradley a direct question, but instead of responding to her, he responded to his assistant saying: "Please inform Clerk that schedule is fine."
Bernardi said "on a balance of probabilities" Bradley used derogatory nicknames for Gignac, such as "media hog" and "director of publicity."
She called this "particularly troublesome" given the fact that Bradley himself referred the media to Gignac.
Bernardi wrote that during the course of the investigation she received a large volume of emails from third parties in which Bradley made negative and disparaging comments about the complainants.
Bradley "disregarded and dismissed, deliberately or otherwise, the inappropriateness of his actions and the significant detrimental impact it has had" on the complainants, the report states.
Bernardi interviewed Bradley and said he acknowledged but tried to justify his behaviour, blamed the victims or attempted to suggest his conduct was simply misperceived, or that the complainants' perceptions were unreasonable or irrational.
In an "letter to the people of Sarnia" released on Friday, Bradley admitted making "my share of mistakes in the workplace including being aggressive and bold in seeking accountability from some senior staff."
"I regret in certain situations I let my passion for the City in carrying out the people's business overcome my judgement and normal good manners," he said.
"I apologize for those incidents."
Bradley also said Bernardi "chose not to interview people that could provide context, background and balance to the issues."