le Vendredi 9 Décembre 2022
le Dimanche 23 octobre 2022 17:59 Tribune-Express (Hawkesbury)

Dussault Alleges Mayor Delayed Report Ahead of Election

L'ancien directeur administratif et directeur des ressources humaines par intérim, Dominique Dussault, allègue qu'une plainte pour harcèlement contre la maire Paula Assaly a été retardée pour éviter un rapport du commissaire à l'intégrité avant les élections municipales.  — Photo d'archives
L'ancien directeur administratif et directeur des ressources humaines par intérim, Dominique Dussault, allègue qu'une plainte pour harcèlement contre la maire Paula Assaly a été retardée pour éviter un rapport du commissaire à l'intégrité avant les élections municipales.
Photo d'archives
Court documents filed by the former interim chief administrator for the Town of Hawkesbury allege the mayor, council and town administration were complicit in creating a “poisoned and unhealthy work environment” leading to her constructive dismissal in September 2022, and intentionally delayed a harassment complaint so it would not surface ahead of upcoming municipal elections.

The document alleges Mayor Paula Assaly led a personal campaign of “malicious and inappropriate behaviour,” harassment and false allegations to force interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Director of Human Resources Dominique Dussault from her position. Dussault alleges Assaly’s mistreatment stems from a 2020 request for an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner which revealed Assaly had, on several occasions, overreached “the authority and powers of the office of mayor.” 

“I pushed backed and I don’t think she liked that,” said Dussault.  

In March 2022, Dussault filed a formal harassment complaint against Assaly, but the mayor’s behaviour towards Dussault continued. Despite being “implicitly or explicitly aware of Ms. Dussault’s distress,” council failed to take any action on the matter, leaving Dussault with no other option but to take medical leave on April 25, according to the court documents. Two days after taking her leave, the municipality informed Dussault her harassment complaint was reviewed by council and remedial measures discussed during an in-camera meeting. However, according to the court filings, Assaly participated in the discussion regarding the corrective actions to be taken against her, a potential violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA). 

Furthermore, Dussault claims the filing of her complaint with the Integrity Commissioner was “intentionally and maliciously delayed” to avoid a decision against Assaly’s interest surfacing before the October municipal election. The MCIA states an Integrity Commissioner cannot make an application to a judge during a regular election period starting on the nomination day through to the election day. That period would be from August 19 to October 24 of this year. 

Believing the council and town administration were unwilling to address the harassment she faced, Dussault resigned from her position on September 27, 2022. Failing to handle her last complaint properly, Dussault claims the town “no longer intended to be bound” by their employment contract, leading to a constructive dismissal. 

“I took every step I needed to because I wanted to keep working at the city, I thought I was going to finish my career in Hawkesbury,” said Dussault, referring to her attempts to speak with human resources and file complaints to rectify her situation. 

Dussault is suing the town of Hawkesbury for $143,596 for breach of contract and constructive dismissal, which represents 12 months salary, $100,000 for breach of good faith and fair dealing, $25,000 in punitive damages, and $50,000 for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). Further damages will also be sought for loss of benefits, including medical and dental insurance and pension, and expenses incurred in the search of comparable employment, the amount of which to be presented ahead of trial. 

The town of Hawkesbury and Mayor Assaly declined to comment. Assaly stated in an email that “council is not in a position to make comments on litigation matters.”