Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is There Bullying In The Political Workplace

Edgar (aka Eddie) may need a holiday after his vacation in Mexico
  • "To sit on a beach in Mexico and lob grenades my way, and drag my family into this, is offensive. And it's very, very bad politics."

He better learn to turn off his Blackberry after the second major faux pas he has made while away. Except the two mistakes tie in together in an unexpected way as you will see at the end of this BLOG.


The concept of dealing with bullying is a relatively new concept that is gaining a lot of attention these days and not just amongst children and in schools. Bullying comes in many shapes and sizes and the consequences can be very severe. Here is a definition that I saw involving adults and jobs:

  • Definition of Workplace Bullying

    Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

    ■Verbal abuse.
    ■Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating
    ■Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done.

    Workplace Bullying...

    Is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s).
    Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location and methods.
    Escalates to involve others who side with the bully either voluntarily through coercion.
    Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself."

Workplace bullying can take place in a political work environment just as it can in a business environment. If you have been reading any of the English newspapers online, then you would have seen the storm that has broken out around the British PM:

  • "The Prime Minister’s fitness to govern was called into question last night after allegations that No 10 staff had called an anti-bullying charity.

    Christine Pratt, the chief executive of the National Bullying Helpline, made the claims hours after reports that Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, had approached Gordon Brown about his treatment of personnel.

    Mrs Pratt told a television interviewer that staff working for Mr Brown had made “three of four” calls and downloaded advice from the charity’s website.

    “I have personally taken a call from staff in the Prime Minister’s office, staff who believe they are working in a bullying culture and that it has caused them some stress,” she said. “We would have hoped Gordon Brown would lead by example. If an employer receives complaints, they should investigate.”

The anti-bullying Hotline lady has taken a few hits herself subsequently, with several of her Executive resigning since she supposedly breached a confidence. Moreover, she is now being attacked rather viciously I think, a different form of bullying perhaps if one dares attack the Leader:

  • "Minister Phil Woolas launches personal attack on Christine Pratt

    Government criticism of the head of an anti-bullying charity morphed into an outright personal attack today when Christine Pratt was mocked by a minister as a “prat of a woman”.

    The founder of the National Bullying Helpline has faced a concerted campaign to discredit her and her organisation since claiming that staff at No 10 had asked for help to flight bullying at work.

    Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, launched the most aggressive attack yet while suggesting that she would be regretting her actions."

So let us look locally and ask could the same thing happen in Windsor? Do the City's Human Resources surveys reveal any kind of bullying concerns by staff members? Do staff members feel intimidated? If so, has it become worse after the 101 day strike and the outsourcing debate or are attempts being made to reduce concerns?

I have a reason for setting this out obviously. I was absolutely offended by the comments by Edgar (aka Eddie) in the Star in the arena audit story Would his comments meet the criteria of "bullying?" That is for you, dear reader, to decide for yourself. As for me, I believe the Mayor's comments are a disgrace:

  • "Construction of the $72.1-million WFCU Centre will go under the microscope of the city auditor general's department.

    "Our goal is to look at value for money," said lead internal auditor Angela Berry of the upcoming arena audit.

    "I can't tell you exactly what we are going to look at yet. What we will do is talk to people first to find out what are the concerns. It's starting now. We will meet with people. Then once we go and look, you are going to find something and that will lead to more questions..."

    Coun. Alan Halberstadt, a member of the audit committee, said he was pleased the WFCU audit will begin.

    "There are a lot of questions being asked by critics and it's good to have those questions addressed and answered," he said.

    He said a land swap deal with developer Shmuel Farhi "should be eyeballed on this. There were a lot of questions raised about that and whether the city got a good deal."

    But Mayor Eddie Francis questioned in a phone interview Monday the need for an audit and accused Halberstadt of "creating a cloud of suspicion where there should be none."

    He said there were no "unanswered questions" and that Halberstadt was part of the discussions on the new arena until "declaring a conflict at the 11th hour."

    "If he wanted answers to the questions, he should have stayed on as part of the process," said Francis.

    While such audits are "free of political interference," Francis, referring to the steep price of the 400 building audit, said he wants to ensure council provides "oversight."

    "We're not going to sit back and let them spend another $600,000 on an audit," he said."

Obviously, the Mayor is concerned. His career could be ended if there are negative comments raised around the arena deal by an audit as there was with the 400 Building.

The biggest obvious issue that can be answered quickly and easily is whether the arena was properly single-sourced. The issue was raised again by Jim Lyons of the Construction Association

  • "Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, recently criticized the city for circumventing an "open and transparent" system when it ruled out competitive bidding for the project."

But Edgar answered it in a way that means nothing but looks impressive:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said that even though the city sole-sourced the arena project, it was approved through a bylaw and resolution of council."

So what Mr. Mayor. If it was wrong, passing a by-law does nothing to make it right. Or is this his way of sharing blame with the Councillors in advance, deflecting attention from himself, in advance?

Clearly there is no love lost between Edgar and the "Your arrogance knows no bounds" Councillor. But attacking Halberstadt already? Is it because he is a member of the Audit Committee and Edgar is going after him in advance to let him know how he can be dealt with?

You remember I am sure the "unanswered question" show-down over the 400 Building audit at the Council meeting between Edgar and Alan. Here we go again but in advance!

Why would the Mayor question the need for an audit? Because the finger of blame could point at him or has he set up already the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget for the fall with the help of a Messenger columnist! Did you hear him demanding an end to the 400 Audit? Why now?

A major project was finished costing over $70M. Isn't it normal to see what was done right and what was done wrong to improve just like with the 400 Building? Why not take the praise for a job well done or is he afraid of something that might be uncovered since he was so intimately involved in the arena file?

The only thing in a cloud is the Mayor's head if he does not think that people are suspicious about what went on. Again, if there is no "cloud of suspicion," then let the audit go forward and make Councillor Halberstadt eat his words.

It is completely disingenuous for the Mayor to claim that there are no "unanswered" questions. Merely by saying so does not make the questions disappear.

The Mayor needs to explain this circuitous logic of his. If Councillor Halberstadt declared a "conflict," then he would be in breach of the Municipal Conflict of Interst Act if he "should have stayed on as part of the process." The Mayor as a lawyer ought to know better.

However, it is Edgar sticking his nose into the Audit Committee's function that I find appalling!

No it is NOT his or Council's job to "provide[s] "oversight." That smells of political interference.

If it takes $600K to do a proper job, so be it! That is most unfortunate but that is what may happen on a major audit that takes years to be completed using outside assistance where there were strange events taking place like 11 boxes being found all of a sudden.

Perhaps the Mayor should ensure that ALL files are made available to the Auditor including all of his files and that ALL personnel are available for interviews including himself so the costs and time-period involved are minimized.

I am sure that he would want the whole story out before the election!

But in the end, the person at risk is Angela Berry and her career.

  • "Findings of a recently completed audit of the $32.5-million 400 City Hall Square building project shows Berry and her audit co-workers will not shy away from controversy during the arena audit."

How would you like to be in her shoes today with the Mayor's outburst and him saying that there was nothing wrong on the file! How comfortable is she going to feel going into the audit fearing perhaps that if there is something negative discovered, especially if it hurts the Council members involved, that she might get "punished" down the road? How secure should she feel today since the Chair of the Audit Committee is invisible on the Mayor's comments and should have denounced them!

I see that the Star was so concerned about the Mayor's side of the story not getting out that they had to phone him while he is on holidays. Can we be generous and say that the Mayor was taken by surprise and his remarks reflect that. Why not?

Or could we say in the alternative that this has all been premeditated and part of a campaign to scare the Audit group in anticipation of an audit on the arena. As I Blogged before:

  • "Then we have the Mayor telling us this as he wants Councillors Halberstadt and Marra removed as members of the Audit Committee:

    "Two audit committee members are city councillors, prompting Mayor Eddie Francis to call the audit process "politicized."

    "It's taken up a lot of time and effort," he said.

    "The audit committee's there to serve as an independent function, as an independent oversight of the affairs of the corporation."

    Edgar said on Eh-channel that he thinks other investigations into other City activities are politically motivated and are wasting resources. Frankly, I have NO idea what he is talking about on this issue. What else is being examined that we do not know about that is taking up so much Audit time?

    How did the audit which is a normal activity all of a sudden become "politicized" and who is making it such. Hardly Councillors Marra and Halberstadt. They are looing like fools letting the process go on and on and on!

    Also he wants Max Zalev out too since he is on Enwin but Max wants Councillors on it because they bring the municipal perspective.

    Funny, I have not heard these complaints before when the Audit Committee was invisible on WUC as an example or not taking action on the 400 Building. Is it now political because of Councillor "Mayor in Waiting" and Councillor "Your Arrogance Has no bounds" who cannot be controlled since it is getting to re-election time

    This is all of course utter nonesense but nothing more that the beginning of a demand to depoliticize the Committee and appoint "unbiased" citizens to the Committee after a very long vettign process of course. Just like with the WEDC CEO process.

    Ho, Ho, Ho...the Star even gets in on the subject. You think they are supporting taxpayers. Hardly. They are helping Edgar stall things off:

    "If the audit committee is unwilling to immediately release the Dunbar audit, the committee should be immediately dissolved and a separate investigation launched to explain how a group of officials who are responsible for ensuring transparency and accountability, instead seem to be accomplishing the opposite.

    That should last until waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay after the next municipal election!

    So what is this all about? What is the real story behind this? We know it is the old Edgar stall game but why?

    As I BLOGGED before, it has nothing to do with the 400 Building but everything to do with the Arena. "11 Boxes As A Stalling Device"

You be the judge of that too, dear reader.

The Marra incident involving his family and now this. It could prove to be a very expensive and costly vacation for Edgar in more ways than one.

Don't forget that Councillor Marra is also on the Audit Committee.