Dominique Dussault filed her notice of action November 27 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. In her civil suit, the town’s chief administrator is seeking $100,000 in damages for defamation and another $100,000 in punitive damages. Radio-Canada broke the story in a detailed online article.
The report filed as part of the civil suit summarizes a list of events over the past year-and-a-half as grounds for the legal action. The list begins with Dussault’s taking over in July 2020 as interim chief administrative officer (CAO) from Daniel Gatien who stepped down from his past on sick leave. Dussault continued to work as the municipal human resources director during that time.
During her term as acting CAO, Dussault filed a request with John Saywell, who was the town’s integrity commissioner then, to investigate the mayor for violations of the municipal code of ethics and for interference in the general administration of municipal operations. The mayor tried and failed to get a court injunction to prevent release of the report and its recommendations, which were later adopted by council.
Dussault was confirmed in March 2021 as the new full-time CAO for the municipality. Several months later another integrity commission report was filed with council. This one was by Valerie M’Garry, who was called in to deal with the investigation request. Dussault’s lawsuit cites comments by Mayor Assaly during council’s September 27 review of the report as also part of the grounds for her claim of defamanation. The video of the September 27 virtual meeting of council has been removed from the municipal website pending results of the civil suit that is now in progress.
The lawsuit report also refers to Mayor Assaly’s public protest walk in front of town hall in November regarding what the mayor claimed was a “toxic atmosphere” at town hall, along distribution of leaflets to the public and to media as part of a defamation campaign against Dussault. The report also alleges that up to that time Hawkesbury council as a whole took little or no action to either defend the CAO or sanction the mayor.
A digital copy of the lawsuit document has been sent to the municipality’s insurance company for review. Both the mayor and council now wait for the company’s report and recommendations on the lawsuit.