It is time for the city to cut its losses on the fiasco known as Taxi-gate and enter into serious settlement negotiations with two former managers who were unfairly fired and then subjected to 7 years exposure to the city’s “scorched-earth” litigation policy. Try to square the facts in our story on the front page with the sentiments contained in the city’s statement of values.
Accountability – WE are responsible for our actions, ensuring the efficient, cost-effective and sustainable use of public resources. Cost Consciousness – WE must ensure that we are receiving value for taxpayer dollars spent.
Equity – WE provide equitable access to municipal services and treat all people fairly.
Excellence – WE provide municipal services through a commitment to meeting and exceeding identified standards.
Honesty – WE are truthful and act with integrity.
Innovation – WE are a forward thinking organization that supports continuous improvement and encourages creativity.
Leadership – WE motivate and inspire by demonstrating qualities that foster effective decision making and promote success at all levels.
Respect – WE treat ourselves and others as we would like to be treated.
Teamwork – WE work together toward common goals, through cooperation and partnership.
The fact is that by taking no action over a 2004 confrontation between Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli and a city staffer, effectively council has set the bar for what constitutes harassment of an employee. Apparently to qualify as harassment, actions would have to go beyond rushing into a staffer’s workplace, confronting him in what has been described by a witness as an obscenity-laden tirade, complete with threats to remove that staffer from his job — a threat that was ultimately carried out.
To rise to the level of harassment, the actions of a councillor would have to be in excess of what happened in December, 2004. It’s interesting to see that in the years since the Morelli matter, council has taken a much less restrictive view of what constitutes harassment. Most of this affair has been conducted under the cone of silence of ‘solicitor-client privilege’, protecting the identity of an “identifiable individual”, and the old stand-by — “personnel matters.” A couple of councillors coming out of these closed-door meetings dealing with the firings have hinted to the media, “If you knew what we heard in there, you’d understand why this happened,” suggesting that there may have been more to the firings than is generally understood.
The trouble with that line of thinking is that it won’t hold up in court. The city will be restricted in its defence to the reasons given to the employees in their letters of dismissal. They won’t be allowed to introduce other reasons after the fact. Not only that, even behind closed doors, council was not allowed to see the full consultant report that was used to justify the firings; rather they were shown an edited version. Add to that the author of the report, Anne Grant, denied under oath recommending firing anybody. Before it’s over, it’s easy to see that what started nearly a decade ago with the inappropriate actions an individual councillor could end up costing taxpayers a million dollars. All the things people hate about city hall are on display in this affair — ward heeling, bullying, cover-up, incompetence and lack of backbone. It’s time to wind this mess down.