Having decided to let Mayor Mike Bradley keep his old office, city councillors say it’s time to get past the workplace harassment controversy that’s gripped City Hall and get back to business.
Council approved a plan on Nov. 14 that will separate municipal employees at City Hall from the mayor, councillors and the general public by creating designated staff work areas secured with electronic card locks.
The $74,000 reconfiguration will allow public access to lobbies, washrooms, meeting rooms and a second floor “Political Wing,” including the mayor’s office and councillor meeting room.
Video surveillance cameras will also be installed at key locations inside and outside the Christina Street building.
The new plan reverses council’s decision to temporarily move the mayor’s office to the Sarnia Transit “bus barn” to protect City Hall staff from Bradley.
Council realized, belatedly, that such a move would do nothing to protect staff working at the transit office.
The banishment was one of several moves council approved Oct. 24 in the wake of third-party investigations in June and October that found the mayor created a toxic environment at City Hall by harassing and bullying senior managers.
Coun. Andy Bruziewicz said the plan is the best for all parties. It means the mayor keeps his office, employees get a safe work environment, and council meets its legal obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, he said.
Council had already imposed sanctions on Bradley that included docking his pay 90 days, restricting his access at City Hall to regular business hours and ordering his communications with staff reviewed by an intermediary, Coun. Anne Marie Gillis.
Bruziewicz was one of several councillors who expressed a desire bring the divisive controversy to a close.
“Let’s begin to heal for the benefit of the community,” he said.
Coun. Bev MacDougall said the location of Bradley’s office and his separation from staff was the final issue needing to be resolved.
“I’m very anxious to move on,” she said.
But it isn’t over yet. The Nov. 14 public meeting was preceded by a closed-door session at which councillors – minus the mayor – met to discuss “one or more claims for compensation” arising from harassment complaints against the mayor.