January 5, 2016 8:16 pm
Updated: January 5, 2016 10:06 pm

Alberta school board head accused of ‘unwanted physical touching’ and ‘oppressive atmosphere’

WATCH ABOVE: Palliser Regional Schools is being sued by a former employee who is accusing Supintendent Kevin Gietz of bullying behavior. Quinn Campbell reports.


LETHBRIDGE – Palliser Regional Schools, a school board that services southern Alberta, is coming under fire after a former employee filed a civil suit claiming the chief superintendent, Kevin Gietz, created an “oppressive atmosphere” and engaged in “unwanted physical touching.”

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Michelle Gibb officially resigned from her position with Palliser in November 2013, after taking her accusations against Gietz to the school board trustees. The 36-year-old said she did so with the expectation that a formal investigation would take place. The board has since called her allegations “false.”

“[Gietz] created an atmosphere that was unhealthy and poisonous,” her lawyer, David Kusick, said. “Abusive language and demeanor, physical and verbal intimidation, threatening behaviour, as well as inappropriate comments and unwelcomed physical contact of various female employees.”

However, Gibb claims no investigation ever took place and her complaints were dismissed just days later.

“To the best of our knowledge the investigation was never done prior to accepting that resignation,” Kusick said.

Global News requested a comment from Gietz, or the school board, and was directed to a statement, which states Palliser Regional Schools denies the allegations, and claims they “are entirely without merit.”

According to the school board, they ordered an independent review in January 2014, at which time they interviewed all office staff. They said the feedback was “overwhelmingly positive regarding the leadership and culture of the office.”

Kusick suggested the school board was too quick in making its decision and claimed the review of the alleged incidents wasn’t done properly.

Gibb’s lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, says she is seeking over $137,000, the equivalent of 15 months salary, for Palliser’s failure to give the appropriate notice of what she claims was a constructive dismissal.

She believes she is entitled to more than $28,000 for loss of employer-paid benefits and unpaid vacation time.

She is also suing for punitive damages of $5,000 from Palliser because she believes the board failed to effectively deal with the alleged abusive behaviour carried out by Gietz.

Gibb was employed by Palliser as a corporate treasurer from 2009 to 2013. Gietz joined Palliser in 2005 as an associate superintendent, and two years later was promoted to chief superintendent.

With files from Quinn Campbell.

Full statement from Palliser’s board chair Colleen Deitz:

Palliser is currently defending a civil litigation matter brought by a former employee who resigned in November 2013.
This matter is before the courts so our ability to comment is limited as we respect the court process.
Our statement of defence is a matter of public record: Palliser denies the allegations in the statement of claim, and states that the allegations are entirely without merit and false.
It is also a matter of public record that the board ordered an independent review of Central Office operations in January 2014, involving interviews of all office staff. The review was overwhelmingly positive regarding the leadership and culture of the office.
Palliser has accomplished a great deal under the leadership of our Superintendent, and we will continue to do so.

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