Rift widens between Montreal and NDG mayors over harassment allegations
MONTREAL -- The political rift between the mayors of Montreal and Cote-des-Neiges-NDG is growing.
Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery sat as an independent in city hall on Monday after she was kicked out of Projet Montreal.
The political breakup comes after Montgomery refused to fire her chief-of-staff Annalisa Harris over allegations of harassment in a report by the city's comptroller general.
In a statement Monday, the comptroller general said investigators found Montgomery was "willfully blind" to the situation.
"You can play the victim and say it's not your fault, and it's everybody else's fault, but ultimately it's up to her to find a solution," said Mayor Valerie Plante.
Citing years of corruption issues, Montgomery was the one who initially asked for the city to investigate into staffing at the borough – but in the case of another employee.
Plante said that the initial report was so worrying, the comptroller general decided to look into the matter further, and that's when the allegations about Harris emerged.
"The first time I heard the word 'harassment' is when they read me the conclusions of the report on December 6th," said Montgomery.
Montgomery refused to fire Harris without seeing that second report, writing to senior city officials - including the mayor - that letting Harris go could open them up to a lawsuit.
"I don't feel like there's transparency here. I don't understand why we cannot see the report," said Montgomery.
Plante said there's a simple reason: "The reason Mme. Montgomery cannot get the report is that she herself is named in the report."
Plante said instead of firing Harris, other solutions were proposed, including her working for the party but away from other civil servants. All options were refused.
Lionel Perez, fellow NDG official and leader of opposition party Ensemble Montreal, said it's creating a toxic work environment in the borough.
"For Ms. Montgomery to challenge the report, simply put, is she doesn't want to agree with it," he said.
Montgomery says she has no intention to step down as borough mayor and fully intends to run again even if it's not under the Projet Montreal banner.
Harris continues to be her chief-of-staff.