The $1.27M “Bad Apple?”

By  | April 7, 2018 | 2 Comments | Filed under: Waterloo Police class action lawsuit

 

 

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The public have read several headlines lately about the London Police Service and their overwhelming number of workplace harassment cases, more recently the two Human Rights complaints filed against the Ottawa Police Service and Chief, and we all recall the $167M class action lawsuit ongoing against the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS). Is it an isolated problem? Do we just have a few “Bad Apples” or is it a systemic issue, as many complainants allege? This is precisely what I highlighted in my book the Systemic Misfeasance in Ontario Policing and the Coordinated Suppression of Whistleblowers. I resigned from the WRPS last summer very publicly to bring attention to what I consider misfeasance and waste of taxpayer funds occurring within police services in Ontario and inadequate oversight by police service boards. The response was swift, yet most people fell back on their trust that those in charge of our state-owned enterprises are making decisions in the best interest of the public, especially the chief of police and police services board. It’s time the public are given tangible evidence and begin to understand the economics behind inadequate leadership and poor governance of our publicly funded enterprises. It became clear during my two presentations to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy to debate bill 175, that the government are not concerned with these systemic workplace issues, or the cost to the taxpayer. So, I took it upon myself to inform the taxpayer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Ineffective oversight and poor governance are costing the Ontario taxpayer millions of dollars and ethical integrity.

Economics of Poor Governance

It’s common knowledge that if employees are being treated poorly by their employer they will do such things as; file grievances, human rights complaints, workplace harassment complaints, or sue. Unfortunately, we don’t have laws prohibiting state-owned enterprises from entering into non-disclosure agreements, therefore any settlements paid to employees is all done behind closed doors, (where is this in the budget?). The taxpayers really have no way of finding out how much “poor behaviour” within a government agency (such as harassment, discrimination, bullying), is costing them. So, I thought outside the box. I conducted research on The Canadian Legal Information Institute website to find out that the WRPS has had several human rights complaints filed by its employees over the years, and as far back as I could see, the police service used the same lawyer to defend all of those cases. For those who are not familiar, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is an administrative law tribunal which acts like a court to decide on these matters brought forward (in this case) by employees of the WRPS against the police service.

I filed a freedom of information request at the WRPS, which as Toronto Star reporter Kenyon Wallace recently reported is a painstaking process. I asked for invoices paid to this particular lawyer’s firm by the WRPS for “Labour Relations Matters” since 2009. Now, this is only a small piece of the pie, as it may not include money paid to lawyers to defend grievances and it does not include civil lawsuits filed by employees, my request was for human rights complaints, and invoices from one firm. The result will shock you, or maybe it won’t. The problem is, we don’t know what is “normal.” How much should poor behaviour within a government organization (with approximately 1,200 employees in 2016) cost taxpayers?

The Waterloo Regional Police Service spent $1,274,516.30 to retain one law firm on Labour Relations Matters from 2009 to 2017.

Now, again, this figure does not include payments made to other law firms for human rights cases or to defend such things as civil lawsuits, (such as the ongoing class action against WRPS). Please don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for organizations to defend allegations (although from an ethical standpoint, I may disagree with their approaches). However, if there is no oversight of what is being done to remedy the problems that are leading to these complaints, then why are these cheques just being signed without the right questions being asked?

Let’s look at how this figure acts as a lagging indicator of ineffective management. If there is a problem that is costing an organization money, reducing that cost becomes the measure for success in solving that problem. What has the WRPS done over the years to remedy this problem? The chief of police of WRPS, Bryan Larkin, issued a statement in January, 2018, in response to new allegations in the class action lawsuit. That statement read:

“Waterloo Regional Police Service is committed to providing a work environment in which all members are treated with respect and dignity. Workplace harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated from any person in the workplace.”

I would argue that not everyone agrees with this statement; hence, the class action and ongoing human rights complaints. But, let’s for a moment consider the issue of the expense to the taxpayer of the problem of internal harassment, discrimination and bullying. If this is an ongoing problem facing all workplaces and these types of complaints are inevitable, then this must be an acceptable and forecasted expense for all workplaces. So, I dug a little deeper. I looked at trends with this expense. For the first couple of years 2009 – 2011, this expense was under $60,000. Then, in 2012, things change. For some unknown reason, the fees paid to this law firm went up 460%, and only continued to climb. So, what happened?

I call these figures lagging indicators because obviously the first thing to happen was the poor behaviour. Then, employees have time to decide what to do about it, or there are failed attempts to handle the matter privately. Then, if things are not amicably resolved, the complaint gets filed. Following the filing of the complaint, the service responds; with a lawyer. So, why has the WRPS gone from spending $25,662 on this problem in 2011, to $226,717 in 2017?

Is it a question of management? From 2009 to early 2014, Matt Torigian (now Deputy Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and recently named in affidavits filed by the plaintiffs in the ongoing class action lawsuit), was chief of police. From 2014 onward, Bryan Larkin has been chief. Larkin is also the President of the Ontario Association Chiefs of Police. In addition to the statement above, Larkin also stated in the January, 2018, release:

“It has been a personal and professional goal of mine since being appointed as your Chief of Police, to continue to lead this organization with integrity and respect…”

If this is not a systemic problem building up, then I anticipate that taxpayers will have some difficult questions for the chief and board of WRPS. Consider this, the $261,333 spent on this law firm for Labour Relations Matters in 2016 is 1.86% of the services budget for “Other Operating Expenses” (which is every expense other than Compensation) in the 2016 budget, according to the 2016 Annual Report. Was that a planned expense? Did the police services board ever know these fees were being incurred? And, what reporting was done back to the taxpayers or assurances that steps were being taken to reduce this expense? My question to the province; is every other police service spending this much in one year on Labour Relations Matters? We don’t know.

The taxpayers of Ontario deserve more transparency. If this type of analysis was conducted across the province, what would the expense be to Ontarians for the mistreatment of our police employees by their own services? There are about 60 municipal police services in Ontario (18,000 police officers), plus the 8,000 or so Ontario Provincial Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers. If we have spent over $1.27M since 2009 in the Region of Waterloo alone (750 officers, 450 civilians), what has this problem cost the other 59 municipalities and province? If only Minister Yasir Naqvi would return my correspondence.

As I’ve said many times about the issues I identified in my book, this is not an issue isolated to Waterloo Region. A few weeks ago, London Police Service made the news with their issues relating to workplace harassment. This week, Ottawa faced a second human rights complaint in a week from their members. Prior to any objective analysis, (similar to what I have done here with Waterloo), the board chair and Ottawa Mayor have both made blanket statements that they support their chief. The bottom line is, and the evidence points to the fact that, this is not only a women’s issue; this is an accountability and transparency issue. And, my hope with this article is that taxpayers will begin to realize that this issue is systemic. And, blind support of our leaders, without adequate and objective analysis will only serve to add fuel to the fire.

Ironically, I spoke to the WRPS police services board back in September. I advised them that I had established training for board members to ensure effective and independent oversight of the police service. Part of my training is teaching the importance of proper analysis of indicators to establish problems and identify areas for improvement; with the overall goal to improve accountability and transparency within police services. Another ironic fact, I had requested to speak at a London Police Services board meeting last fall, and was denied.

Since police officers in Ontario have sworn an Oath of Secrecy, and will not speak publicly about “internal matters” I endeavour to be their voice. Having been “on the inside” and am now meeting corporate leaders and board members, I now see that policing is one of the most toxic work environments, primarily because you’re not allowed to talk about it.

It is time that the public demand more from their politicians and politicians start to spend their money on solutions; not concealment.

Kelly Donovan is a former police officer now offering consulting and workplace solutions to prevent systemic issues. Her company website is www.fit4duty.ca and her personal website is www.kellydonovan.ca

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2 Responses to The $1.27M “Bad Apple?”

  1. agmarshall@rogers.com'
    Alan Marshall April 7, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Well done Debbie for posting Kelly Donovan’s latest report. I received an e-mail with it included and found it very interesting. Our various and assorted authorities including municipal councils, school boards, police services etc. all seem to think that their primary goal is both the promotion of their organization as well as defending it from appropriate criticism right down to the taxpayers’ last dime. Newsflash that’s not what your mandate is! You would also be shocked at the legal budget for the Waterloo Region District School Board.

  2. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Tom Vann April 7, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    This is our money that poor management is pissing away. Put a fix in place not a band aid. What am I saying? You have to want to fix it. Our Region chair needs to get off his ass and create solutions to this problem. No sense asking Carl Keifer or the Liberals to look into this…there are votes involved. How much fat could be trimmed from the police budge? I think 8% is a start. Kelly has once again put forth usable info to help the system.

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