A local advocate is decrying a poisoned environment as speculation continues to swirl over allegations of harassment within London City Hall and other city departments.
On Monday, councillors held a special in-camera meeting to discuss “personal matters.”
Following the meeting, city manager Martin Hayward issued a statement noting that the city has a number of policies and procedures in place to ensure “a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination.”
London Abused Women’s Centre executive director Megan Walker was outraged.
“For anybody to have a two-hour special council meeting to discuss serious allegations, specific allegations of abuse, harassment, and retaliation and then come out and distribute a letter to the employees saying, ‘We have a safe workplace,’ absolutely misses the mark.”
Walker told 980 CFPL that she’s received dozens of complaints about problems within the corporation of the City of London. She also called out Mayor Matt Brown for allegedly breaking a promise he made to her while speaking on The Craig Needles Show on Tuesday.
“I said I was concerned because a special council meeting being held to deal with these harassment allegations without any information delivered to them in advance outlining what the allegations are or the specifics of them would be detrimental,” she explained.
“He assured me he would be representing and bringing forward those views to the council – I have since heard that is not true, that did not happen.”
Walker is asking that a third party be brought in to conduct a systemic review.
The former head of the London Professional Firefighters’ Association (LPFFA) echoed Walker’s sentiments and gave an anonymous example of employees’ fear of retaliation.
“As soon as I mentioned code of conduct, and HR, and city hall, that person just shut down,” John Hassan said on The Craig Needles Show.
“To the point where they even said, ‘You know what, even if somebody else comes forward, I’m just going to deny it happened because I don’t want to go through all that. I don’t want to become the next victim.’ Those are the types of things that are going on.”
980 CFPL has reached out to the city manager, Hayward, for comment but he has so far been unavailable. However, Mayor Brown issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon noting that Hayward has his full support.
“Responding publicly to allegations and information collected by a third party is not the way to resolve any issue. We have an obligation to our employees to keep these types of matters confidential and private and we will continue to do so.”
Brown’s statement reads that council has made significant changes over the last year and improvements in workplace culture are already noticeable, but that these improvements “take time.”
The statement notes that there are several options available for people to file and follow up on complaints but that adjustments to policies will be made if needed.
“Oftentimes, being a leader means dealing with difficult and sensitive information; it means working through appropriate channels and not negotiating in the media or giving in to ultimatums, but rather taking a careful look at a situation and taking appropriate action.”
— With files from 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady