Embattled Halifax CAO Jacques Dube apologized to fellow municipal employees this afternoon for an ill-advised communique he sent to a female colleague this winter that has caused no end of aggravation for council and city staff.
In an email to staff, he said he "should have known better" to send the text, but promises that the incident was "isolated" and that no harm was intended. A slow drip of stories since early April - kicked off by allNovaScotia.com municipal scribe Amy Pugsley-Fraser in early April - have hinted that there are up to three more female staffers waiting in the wings at City Hall with their own complaints.
The text, sent on the eve of the biggest snowstorm of the year in February, contained violent imagery which suggested Halifax CFO Amanda Whitewood might like to bludgeon Jacques to death with a shovel because he enjoys winter. Amanda didn't find it funny and lodged a complaint, which led to Jacques being away from the office for a few weeks in March. He was forced to clear many hurdles - including a psychiatric assessment - before council allowed him to return to his post. (see story Frank 766). Council has offered mediation to mend the rift between the two colleagues, but Amanda is having none of it. I'm advised she demanded from the start that she would accept nothing less than Dube's dismissal, and I understand she has yet to change her tune.
"I have learned a lot from the experience," he says in the email, adding that he was "always regret" what he did. He also urges his fellow employees to learn from the experience as he did.
The full email is below.
Dear Fellow HRM employees:
I want to take this opportunity to address a harassment complaint made against me by another HRM employee. I owe you an honest assessment of this situation and not only how I have learned, but how we can all learn from what happened.
I want you to know that at the outset, like all complaints under the HRM Workplace Rights Harassment Prevention Policy, this complaint was taken very seriously. Properly, the Mayor and Council ensured that the complaint was independently investigated and that fair conclusions were drawn. Currently, the recommendations from the process are being implemented.
In my case, I amended and personalized a satirical article from an online publication about snow and snow removal on the eve of a major storm. I then sent a text to a colleague absent of any context or regard for how it could be received.
A complaint was filed and a thorough process undertaken. In this case, the independent investigator found that while I breached the Policy, the incident was isolated and no harm was intended.
I have apologized to the complainant and take this opportunity to tell all of you as well that I am sorry. As CAO, I should have known better and not assumed that I had permission to communicate about a matter unrelated to work. I have learned a lot from this experience.
First, the HRM Workplace Harassment policy does work and it will be applied in every circumstance including those affecting the most senior members of the organization.
Second, people do not react to situations in the same way. It’s not a complainant’s fault that they feel harassed and they should not be blamed in any manner for coming forward and looking to our harassment policy for a solution. Just the opposite, HRM must support complainants and treat all complaints seriously.
Third, our workplace harassment policy is designed to ensure the confidentiality of the harassment complaint process and the privacy of the individuals involved. Clearly, it is disappointing that some of that confidentiality was compromised in this case but we must persevere toward building a workplace free from harassment in all its forms.
Finally, I would urge each employee to reflect on their personal conduct in the workplace and whether another employee could, in any way, interpret that conduct as harassing. If so, change your conduct. Be kind, generous and considerate of your colleagues.
If you are being subjected to inappropriate behaviour in our workplace, please contact your Manager or Human Resources. For ease of reference our Workplace Rights Harassment Prevention Policy is available here: Documents\WorkplaceRightsHarassmentPreventionPolicy004.pdf
You have my promise that I will be an advocate for a workplace free of harassment for all of our employees.
I recognize that this has impacted my colleague, Mayor and Council, and our organization. I should have thought about what I was doing before I pressed send . I didn’t think about the feelings of my colleague and I will always regret it. For that I am sincerely sorry.
I urge you all to learn from my experience as I did.
CONTACT US: Frank Magazine Box 295, Halifax N.S. B3J 2N7 -- Phone: 902 420 1668 -- Fax: 902 423 0281