Annalisa Harris, former chief of staff for Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dâme-de-Grâce borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, has filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante and comptroller-general Alain Bond.
Harris filed her lawsuit at the Montreal courthouse earlier this week and is seeking $186,125.00 in damages.
It is the latest development in a years-long saga pitting Montgomery and Harris against the city.
A 2019 report issued by Bond made recommendations following an investigation that determined Harris had psychologically harassed two members of the borough staff.
“This all started because I saw wrongdoing in the workplace and reported it,” Harris told Global News. “Then they turned it against me.”
Subsequently, Montgomery claimed she was asked by Plante to fire her chief of staff over the alleged harassment, but refused to do so, leading to Montgomery’s eventual ouster from Plante’s Projet Montréal party.
It also led to restrictions against Harris. She was not allowed to communicate with borough employees or take part in any meetings with borough officials.
Montgomery argued the measures against Harris were unjustified and made it very difficult for Harris to do her job, equating it to a firing in disguise.
In December, a Quebec Superior Court judge granted a permanent injunction, forcing the City of Montreal to lift restrictions against Harris.
Following the ruling, the city said it had taken note of the judgment but pointed out that Justice Bernard Synnott confirmed that the workplace climate at the borough was unhealthy and that the mayor had played a role in creating the poor climate.
The city eventually decided against filing an appeal in the case.
Harris is currently on a leave of absence from her job with the city. She is now running for borough council in the Loyola district in the upcoming municipal elections in November.
Harris said she decided to file a civil suit because she believes Mayor Plante’s actions damaged her reputation.
She also alleges the city committed age discrimination against her in its investigation and that the investigation itself was illegal because she was never notified of it.
She is also seeking damages for the conditions imposed upon her that limited her ability to do her job.
“They tried to convince my employer to fire me and made the situation difficult in the hopes I’d quit,” she said.
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Mayor Plante’s office lamented Harris’ decision to pursue legal action.
“Unfortunatley, Ms Harris and Ms Montgomery have chosen to multiply the legal challenges and it’s the citizens of the CDN-NDG borough who are paying the price for this strategy,” said Geneviève Jutras.
Harris defended the suit, saying a court decision is the only way the city takes action.
“I’ve tried to reach out and seek common ground and Mayor Plante has always turned me down,” Harris said.
Jutras said that the the city for its part had been hoping for an end to the legal saga for the “benefit of all parties involved,” adding it had decided “in good faith” not to appeal the Superior Court judgment.
“That being said, it is clear at this point that Ms. Harris’s suit will be challenged and that full light will be shed on the proceedings,” she said.