In a carefully measured decision of 245 paragraphs, Mr. Justice Bernard Synnott of the Quebec Superior Court on Friday dismissed the City of Montreal’s case against Mayor Sue Montgomery.
(Full disclosure: I know Sue Montgomery. I do not know her chief of staff Annalisa Harris.)
The judge also ordered the city to hand over the report that purportedly asserted that Montgomery’s chief of staff had engaged in psychological harassment. Without deciding whether harassment had indeed occurred, the judge raised concerns about whether the facts supported a finding of harassment.
Mr. Justice Synnott was careful in his assessment of the conduct of all parties to the conflict, noting that both sides had become entrenched and that their behaviour had fuelled the conflict.
But he criticized the city for overstepping and preventing Montgomery from managing her own staff or from seeing the report at the heart of the dispute. He also criticized the city for invoking the “confidentiality” of the report, while distributing copies of the report to people who were not authorized to see it. The Court further noted that it was unreasonable to expect Montgomery to discipline her own employee without having access to the information that would have been necessary for her to make an appropriate or informed assessment.
… it was unreasonable to expect Montgomery to discipline her own employee without having access to the information that would have been necessary for her to make an appropriate or informed assessment.
One of the measures sought by the city was an injunction against Montgomery to take “all measures necessary” to ensure that Harris had no communication whatsoever with any public servants of the borough. While the court was cognizant of the importance of preventing psychological harassment, it examined the facts in the case in relation the parties’ responses.
Montgomery has been much criticized by municipal officials and even by some media for insisting on trying to get a handle on her own communications in the borough. Here is what the court said on the topic (unofficial translation):
“It is not for the Court to micromanage the affairs of the city, but in the face of such draconian measures that even prevent the Chief of Staff from participating in meetings with any bureaucrat, the line of what is reasonable has been surpassed.”
The city claimed that this conclusion is justified because article 114.1 of the Cities and Towns Act provides that the director general can “ensure communication” between the council, the executive committee and other committees, on the one hand, and the other officers and employees of the municipality on the other.
But that is not the same thing as centralizing communications and the Court found that the city had overstepped.
A copy of the decision is below.