Canada

City of Montreal fails to reduce C.D.N.-N.D.G. Mayor Montgomery's powers

A Quebec Superior Court judge has rejected a request for an injunction requested by the city of Montreal that would have seriously reduced Mayor Sue Montgomery’s abilities to run the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough on a daily basis.

Justice Thomas Davis rejected the city’s request following a hearing held at the Montreal courthouse on Tuesday. Davis ruled that the city’s request was not urgent, as the city had claimed.

The city was seeking a court order that “all communication by (Montgomery) with the administration of the Côte-de-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough be transmitted through the deputy-mayor alone, except for communications that could be made within the framework of (public borough council meetings).”

Its written request argued that an injunction was urgent because: “the city has a duty to ensure the health and safety of its employees, that they are ensured they benefit from a workplace exempt of all psychological harassment and to ensure the respect of public order.”

The judge also ordered the city to pay all of the legal fees Montgomery has incurred in recent months including in her defence of allegations made against her, by the city, before the Quebec Municipal Commission. Last week, the commission charged Montgomery with multiple ethics violations, including harassment, lack of respect and failure to maintain a harassment-free work environment.

“We are very happy that the court understood Mayor Montgomery’s position,” her lawyer, Éric Oliver, told the Montreal Gazette after the hearing.

Oliver also said he could not understand why the Quebec Municipal Commission, which is supposed to act as an impartial administrative tribunal, joined the city of Montreal in its request for the injunction.

The city argued the commission’s decision made the matter urgent, but Davis did not agree. The judge questioned how the city could consider the problematic situation between Montgomery and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal governing party to be urgent now. In March, the city held the exact opposite stance when Montgomery sought an injunction seeking to have full access to reports that are at the heart of her conflict with the city of Montreal. Montgomery was kicked out of Projet Montréal in January but remains the mayor of the borough.

The reports, produced by Montreal’s comptroller-general Alain Bond, alleged that Montgomery’s chief of staff, Annalisa Harris, harassed two civil servants in her office — borough director Stéphane Plante and Chaima Ben, an employee in the borough office who has been on leave for several weeks now. Bond charged Montgomery had wilfully blinded herself to the harassment. Montgomery has only been supplied with a heavily redacted copy of one of the reports and has argued she can’t make a decision on whether to fire Harris without seeing everything contained in them. After the reports were completed, Plante asked Montgomery to fire Harris, but the borough mayor refused.

In February, Montgomery suspended Stéphane Plante for two days without pay after civil servants attending an afternoon caucus meeting got up and left when Harris arrived. On March 4, Montgomery suspended Plante again — this time for 17 days — for refusing to return to work following his first suspension.

In its request for an injunction, the city also asked for a court order that Harris “not be allowed to have any communication nor can she participate in any meeting with any of the borough’s civil servants regardless of their functions or status.”

The city also asked that Montgomery “cease all sanctions and all measures of reprisals against all employees of the city of Montreal who work for the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, particularly toward (Stéphane Plante).”

The city’s request details how it and the Quebec Municipal Commission sent Montgomery a legal warning letter, on March 31, seeking to have her confirm that neither she nor Harris would not sanction any other civil servants. The city states that Montgomery “refused or neglected” to supply the confirmation it was seeking.

pcherry@postmedia.com

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