OPP investigated Petrolia councilor for watching town staff: report

OPP investigated Petrolia councilor for watching town staff report

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A Petrolia councilor was among a group of people in the town repeatedly watching and potentially photographing municipal staff members on the job amid concerns about cost constraints, an independent investigator’s report says.


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John E. Fleming was hired by the town to investigate after staff complaints about the “creepy,” repeated surveillance by various people from a number of vehicles turned into an OPP criminal harassment investigation before even the town’s top administrator knew what was going on, Fleming wrote in his heavily redacted Nov. 9 report for the town.

No charges were ever laid, but lessons have been learned, Petrolia Mayor Brad Loosley said about the investigation.

“I hope it’s done,” he said, “and I think everyone – all parties – have pretty well, I think, agreed on” the recommendations in Fleming’s report, he added.

“I think council took the proper action by doing this and getting a third party involved to do this investigation,” he said.

The incidents began about a year and a half ago, he said.

Before the roughly $ 15,000 investigation was called, the unnamed councilor had already been cautioned by Loosley and others on council that the monitoring he and others were engaged in could reach the definition of harassment, Fleming’s report says.

The councilor agreed to stop, but the behavior by several other people continued, the report noted.

Complaints to supervisors and department management – all complaints came from one, unnamed department, Loosley confirmed – were shared with another senior manager, who amid concern, raised the matter “informally” with an OPP officer, which led to the criminal investigation, Fleming’s report said.


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“Around the time of the conclusion of this investigation, the matter came to the attention of the mayor and the CAO, which ultimately led to the council’s decision to seek a third-party review,” it says.

Because the details concern largely personnel matters, much of it remains confidential, the report stated.

Revealing things like the two departments involved in complaints could reveal people’s identities, Loosley said.

Petrolia has proper, up-to-date policies and procedures, as well as training for staff, but steps in the processes staff should follow were clearly “missed, or not followed, resulting in concern being raised,” the report says.

Among Fleming’s conclusions and recommendations:

  • councilors must respect they cannot individually direct city employees since staff answer to the CAO, who then answers to council;
  • all staff must be aware of – and trained in – town policies and procedures, particularly regarding workplace safety;
  • the CAO must ensure senior managers follow their training regarding town policies and procedures;
  • a “thorough review of job descriptions of key positions in the town’s senior ranks may be merited” to ensure responsibilities are clearly understood; and
  • ongoing training by council members from the integrity commissioner would be beneficial.

Additional recommendations in the report were redacted.

All recommendations are being followed, Loosley said, noting that includes a public training session for council with the town’s integrity commissioner on Dec. 13.


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In-depth staff training sessions have occurred and a review of job descriptions for key positions is underway, a town press release stated.

Fleming’s report says the investigator has been assured by the counselor he and others involved in monitoring staff will no longer engage in that behavior.

Repeatedly and rising to the level of harassment, “such behavior would not only be a breach of the code of conduct for members of council, but could be considered to be a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and arguably the Criminal Code,” Fleming’s report stated.

“Anything like that is discouraging,” Loosley said about the conduct that Fleming described as clearly “vexatious” to staff.

Dealing with the fallout wasn’t pleasant, “but it was done in the proper fashion,” Loosley said.

Some town policies have been reviewed and fine-tuned “as a result of recent events,” Fleming’s report stated.

Fleming met with town council in closed session to answer questions before the report was released Nov. 25, Loosley said.

“Hopefully it’s done and everything,” he said. “We’re just going to move on.”

CAO Rick Charlebois said it’s critical for the town for council and staff to get along.

“This has obviously been a challenge,” he said. “Although now that this is done and we’ve made some improvements, we’re focused on the future to improve that relationship.”



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