Montgomery warned city that firing staffer accused of harassment could lead to legal action: letter
Published Saturday, January 25, 2020 6:50PM EST Last Updated Saturday, January 25, 2020 7:15PM EST
MONTREAL -- Cote-des-Neiges-NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery told Montreal officials she had not been fully briefed on details of alleged harassment by a member her staff and raised concerns that dismissing the staffer could result in legal action, according to a letter obtained by CTV News.
The letter, written by Montgomery on Jan. 13, was addressed to Montreal’s city manager, comptroller general and Mayor Valerie Plante and addresses allegations against her chief of staff, Annalisa Harris.
“It is impossible and unjust to discipline someone without full disclosure of the nature of the harassment,” wrote Montgomery. “Firing Annalisa Harris… without giving her a chance to defend herself would be opening up ourselves to legal action or a human rights complaint.”
On Friday the City of Montreal released a statement stating Montgomery had been kicked out of the Projet Montreal caucus, saying she had refused to implement measures recommended by the comptroller general. Harris was accused of psychologically harassing two borough employees who did not file a formal complaint and whose identities are confidential.
The Plante administration accused Montgomery of not complying with a legal obligation to take steps to end the behaviour.
“These recommendations were submitted to Mayor Sue Montgomery who, as employer and holder of executive power in the Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough, has the legal obligation to… protect the employees concerned,” they said.
In the letter Montgomery said she was never given the full report and still did not know the full details of the alleged harassment. In their statement the city does not say whether the report was made available to Montgomery or not, only that the comptroller general’s recommendations were given to her.
On Friday, Montgomery said in a Facebook post Montgomery that Harris was entitled to due process. In her letter Montgomery said that if the allegations against Harris were proven to be true after due process was followed, she believed “there should be an opportunity to explore alternatives to dismissal.”
“It’s very important and I believe also in the public interest that (Harris) continue as part of my team,” she said, adding that she had never received any complaints regarding Harris.
A spokesperson for Mayor Plante’s office said the comptroller general responded to Montgomery’s concerns but would not elaborate.
Attorney Julius Grey said he believes that had Montgomery proceeded with firing Harris, legal action could have followed.
“Sue would be opening herself up to those things and I think the administration has opened itself up to the same sort of things because when you dismiss somebody without notice and without fair hearing you open yourself up to a legal action,” he said.