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CAO harassment complaints still shrouded in secrecy 

Councillors refuse comment about allegations that appear to include complaints from three female managers.

click to enlarge Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé - RILEY SMITH
  • Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé
  • RILEY SMITH

The public has no right to know about an ongoing controversy surrounding Halifax’s top bureaucrat, says councillor Bill Karsten.

“You embarrass yourself for even talking about it,” Karsten told reporters Tuesday at City Hall.

Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé has been dealing with a harassment complaint made against him by a senior manager over a violent satirical text message he sent in mid-February.

The message included a rewritten version of Beaverton article, altered so it read like the employee was commenting about murdering Dubé.

On Tuesday, CBC reported the text’s recipient was chief financial officer Amanda Whitewood. The CFO had spent most of that same day in front of council and Dubé, presenting HRM’s 2017/18 budget for final approval.

Afterwards, council met in camera for over two hours to discuss the CAO as part of a scheduled performance review. It was the second day in a row council had met behind closed doors about Dubé’s performance.

Mike Savage said the review was all part of a “vigorous” but “normal” process for any new CAO. The mayor wouldn’t comment on any allegations being reported in the media.

“I don’t know what the public knows and doesn’t know, but it’s not fair, it’s not reasonable to expect we would talk about issues of personnel or issues that happen in camera,” said Savage.

“How would anybody like to see issues that affect their life and privacy put out to the public?” Savage continued. “There’s a place for things, and a place where things need to be discussed differently.”

But this may not be an isolated incident. The Coast has been told as many as three senior managers have complained about Dubé’s interactions with female staff since he was hired last September.

A source with knowledge of the matter (who asked not to be named) claims the situation at City Hall right now is bad enough that some are calling for the CAO to be fired.

“Likely, if council does not terminate [Dubé], they will have an enormous harassment/discrimination lawsuit from two to four women,” the source writes in an email to The Coast.

Both Dubé and HRM spokesperson Breton Murphy didn’t respond to requests for comment on those allegations.

City councillors leaving yesterday’s meeting all declined to say anything about the issue. Karsten, who initially brushed past reporters, turned back at the door to criticize the media’s reporting.

“If this were RBC or BMO...” Karsten said, trailing off. The implication being the public wouldn’t have a right to information about personnel matters at a private company.

As the municipality's senior manager, Dubé oversees 3,600 government employees and earns $270,000 a year in public money.

When it was pointed out to Karsten that HRM is a public body and not a corporation, the councillor baulked at the distinction.

“Oh man, people are still the same fucking way, man,” he said. “Respect people.”

Out of the municipality’s 5,000 permanent, part-time and seasonal employees (as well as volunteers), there has been a total of 29 harassment complaints filed over the past fiscal year.

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