A former senior Alberta government staffer suing Premier Jason Kenney’s office for what she alleges was wrongful dismissal will be seeking a court order to compel Mr. Kenney to testify in the lawsuit.
Ariella Kimmel’s lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, says she will also file a motion to obtain the results of a third-party review – prompted by Ms. Kimmel’s complaints – of government human-resources policies.
“We are bringing a motion to obtain a court order to compel the premier to attend for questioning, because the government has refused to produce him,” Ms. Marshall said Wednesday in a statement.
“The government is also refusing to provide the report that resulted from the investigation launched into the government’s broken workplace policies, despite the fact that this investigation commenced as a direct result of Ms. Kimmel’s proceeding and is very relevant. We will be bringing a motion for the production of this report as well.”
Mr. Kenney himself is not named in the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 1.
Ms. Kimmel alleges she was harassed and ultimately fired after raising concerns about what she saw as the sexual harassment of another employee by a senior government staffer.
When details of the lawsuit were made public last fall, Mr. Kenney announced the review of human-resources policies with an eye toward recommendations, if necessary, on ways to ensure staff felt free to come forward to report concerns.
Any changes to procedures were to be made public. Jamie Pytel, integrity commissioner for the City of Edmonton, was retained to do the investigation.
Janis Irwin, women’s critic for the Opposition NDP, said it was appalling that Mr. Kenney was balking at testifying.
“What does the Premier have to hide?” Ms. Irwin asked. “Has he been caught in a lie about when he knew about these reports [alleged by Ms. Kimmel] and that he refused to act on them?
“He’s clearly failed in his responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all.”
Ms. Irwin said it’s time the government updates the status of the Pytel report.
“Its been six months,” she said. “We can’t get a clear answer about whether the UCP has received this report and whether they’ve even acted upon it.”
Mr. Kenney’s office did not immediately respond for comment on the lawsuit or the status of the report.
On Oct. 27, speaking to the Kimmel case in the House, Mr. Kenney said he was informed in late 2020 about what he called rumours of inappropriate comments made to female staff by a senior staff member.
“I was assured that action was being taken and shortly thereafter that [the senior staffer’s] contract ended with the government,”' Mr. Kenney said at the time.
Ms. Kimmel filed the lawsuit eight months after she was dismissed as chief of staff to Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer.
In her statement of claim, she alleges the Premier’s office fostered a “poisoned work environment” that frustrated her ability to get action on the sexual-harassment complaint. She alleges she was subjected to malicious gossip and online harassment before being dismissed.
The Premier’s office, in its statement of defence, said Ms. Kimmel was let go not because of the sexual-harassment complaint, but because she behaved unprofessionally by openly gossiping, criticizing and sharing personal details about colleagues and supervisors.
It said another reason was because Mr. Schweitzer wanted someone else as chief of staff and there was no place else to put Ms. Kimmel.
Mr. Schweitzer has publicly defended Ms. Kimmel. He has said he has never heard any complaints about her and has been a job reference for her since she left government.
He said he wanted a new chief of staff for continuity purposes when he moved to the ministry and expected Ms. Kimmel would be given a similar job in another department.
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