OPP investigates councillor who tracked Petrolia employees

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Charges never laid; town investigator suggests workers “watched” over “cost constraint” concerns

Fleming recommends training for both staff and councillors

A member of Petrolia’s senior staff went to the OPP with concerns about a councillor who constantly observed town staff at work.

That’s the crux of the issue which led to an investigation of a staff/council relations issue in Petrolia.

The town released a report by Investigator John Fleming today and while the names of the councillor and the senior staffers involved were not provided, the report clearly lays out the a simmering issue which Fleming indicated stemmed from the desire to make sure the town was cost efficient.

The seven page summary says a town councillor had been following town staff at work and taking photos of them. Staff approached the councillor and he committed to putting the camera away.

But Fleming said while the camera was put away, the town staff said there were still people driving by watching their work – something the workers classified as “creepy” although it was not always clear who was watching the town employees work.

“Concerns were raised by more than one employee of the town regarding what they felt was unusual and discomforting observation of their work in several locations and on more than one occasion by persons not known to them, generally by persons in several different vehicles,” he says.

The supervisor and manager raised the issue with another senior manager, who felt they might be at risk, and “raised the matter informally with an OPP officer.”

The police launched an investigation and ultimately decided the incidents didn’t amount to criminal harassment. Fleming summed it up as a desire to make sure taxpayers were getting value for their money.

“There is constant pressure on government for cost savings. As a result, all of those associated with local government are accustomed to being “watched” as they go about their daily work, very often in the public eye,” writes Fleming in his report.

“Perhaps appropriately, perhaps not, some take more extreme measures in their interest in cost constraint and spend more time and attention to that “watching than most would consider normal.”

What concerned Fleming was the actions of the senior manager who went to the OPP without letting the CAO, Rick Charlebois, deal with the issue.

“The OPP became involved ahead of any reference to or knowledge of the CAO,” says Fleming.

In response to the issue, the town has organized an education session for councillors with the Integrity Commissioner Dec. 13 at 5 pm via Zoom. That’s a public meeting.

Charlebois has also taken action already including “in depth training sessions with staff that offered a great deal of focus on policies and procedures as they pertain to personnel policies and to workplace safety,” according to a news release this morning.

The town will also have a “thorough review of job descriptions for key positions.”

It’s not clear from the report nor the news release, whether any staff member faces discipline from the incident; Fleming’s recommended course of action to deal with the staffing issues are redacted in the report, which you can read below.