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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Surrey Mounties seeking dash-cam footage of Whalley road rage fight

Two men are alleged to have stabbed one another

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Fleetwood teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

Fraser Health Overdose Alert.
Fraser Health issues Overdose Alert for Surrey

Health authority reports spike of overdoses in the last 24 hours

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read