Barinder Rasode and Doug McCallum

Election 2014: Harassment debacle a sign of bad leadership: Rasode

City of Surrey: Doug McCallum acknowledges he could have better handled the sexual harassment problem at city hall.

Mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode said it’s time to address the elephant in the room – the fact that one of Surrey’s mayoral candidates pre-emptively shut down a sexual harassment investigation of a high-ranking manager at city hall while he was mayor.

“It absolutely speaks to leadership,” Rasode said Wednesday of Doug McCallum’s time as mayor. “It speaks to how women should have received a full opportunity to have their concerns reviewed…”

McCallum said in his defence at the time that he “followed the city’s Respectful Workplace Policy to a T.”

He said this week he acted on the advice of the city’s lawyer and realizes the situation could have been handled better. He also said he has “zero tolerance for such behaviour.”

The Leader revealed in August 2005 that McCallum limited the scope of a harassment investigation to one complaint, even though more had come to light.

The harassment problem had been ongoing at city hall for several years.

This issue was raised back in March 1998 when a woman told her superiors that a senior manager was touching her inappropriately.

She was afraid to file a formal complaint, so the complaint was dropped. But she also relayed information about another woman in a similar situation who didn’t feel comfortable reporting harassment to her superior.

In November 2000, after learning more incidents had occurred, a manager reported the issue to the human resources department. A counsellor was arranged through the city’s Employee Assistance Program for the complainant.

In September 2003, another complaint emerged, this time from an employee working in the senior manager’s office.

She complained again in November 2004 as the “touching” incidents continued. She was fearful and unwilling to lodge a formal complaint. The management team couldn’t agree on how to proceed, so they sought a legal opinion.

In December 2004, the senior manager was informed of the allegations and the employee was moved to another department.

However, some managers at city hall believed more needed to be done.

One of the women decided to come forward and in March 2005, lawyer Richard Hamilton, of Vancouver law firm Hamilton Howell, was hired to investigate.

McCallum was informed at that time.

Hamilton rented a room at the Vancouver Sheraton Guildford Hotel and began to interview several complainants and witnesses.

On April 4, 2005, McCallum – on the advice of Surrey’s solicitor – called Hamilton and told him to stop interviewing complainants, except for the most recent one.

Hamilton objected in an April 7 letter to McCallum and select senior managers.

“Each of the witnesses whom I met exhibited fear of retribution as a result of providing information,” Hamilton wrote. “It would be inappropriate for me to expand upon the results of my investigation to date. However, I can say that, if the information provided to me by a number of witnesses were accepted, there would be a prima facie case that the Respectful Workplace Policy has been violated.

“If one were to accept the information about (the original complainant) alone, one would be driven to this conclusion.”

In June, 2005, The Leader began an investigation, gathering documentation and interviewing complainants and witnesses.

The story broke in August 2005.

McCallum said at the time that he followed the Respectful Workplace Policy as it was written.

In November 2005, Dianne Watts unseated McCallum in a general election.

On Thursday, McCallum told The Leader he would handle a similar situation differently today.

“As a husband, father of a daughter and grandfather of granddaughters, I take this matter extremely seriously. I have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace,” McCallum wrote in an email response to Leader questions.

“I have acknowledged that this could have been handled better more than a decade ago.True leadership is having the ability to acknowledge where improvement can be made and this is exactly what I am doing.”

Just Posted

Surrey man’s death prompts call for change

Hospital beds for patients with both medical and mental-health issues are ‘very limited’: coroner

VIDEO: Cloverdale hockey parents, players rally against mayor’s plan to postpone arena

The future Cloverdale arena is one of many projects set to be delayed in Surrey’s draft budget

‘Dream come true’ for flower-retrieving trio of figure skaters

Cloverdale, North Delta girls chosen for special task during Grand Prix event at UBC

Volunteers sought for White Rock Christmas Bird Count

Annual inventory of feathered friends set for Dec. 29

Surrey needs more Mounties now, city councillor says

Linda Annis says public safety cannot be put on hold while city forms its own police force

Lawyer for Chinese exec detained by Canada says it’s ‘inconceivable’ she would flee

Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Vancouver Whitecaps lose Kei Kamara, protect 11 players from expansion draft

The club added two goalies, a winger and a midfielder during Major League Soccer’s half-day trade window

Most Read

l -->