Monday, May 2, 2005


As Joyce Burpee spends most of her time in Toronto, most Londoners likely forget she even exists, except perhaps at tax time. Burpee has held the position of Human Rights Specialist for little over a year, but her brief reign has been plagued by controversy, with allegations of gender discrimination surrounding her appointment and with Burpee herself filing a human rights complaint. Well, it looks like this whole crooked business might end up costing Londoners even more than it has already.

From London's daily tabloid:

On the eve of legal wrangling to settle a human rights complaint against city hall, documents obtained by The Free Press show London was set to offer the human rights specialist's job to a man just weeks before hiring a woman.

If the Ontario Human Rights Commission upholds the complaint by London-born Toronto lawyer Bob Wright, the city could be forced to pay him expenses and general damages or hire him.

The case will be the focus of commission mediation on Thursday.

Two confidential reports authored by former city manager Bob Blackwell show Wright was the recommended candidate before the hiring of human rights specialist Joyce Burpee in December 2003.

The hiring sparked a major controversy on city council.

"Because of the very considerable attention given to this position, I feel it is important for the board to know the prospective human rights specialist is a man," Blackwell wrote in a report Nov. 19, 2003.

But three weeks later, he said in a second report a conditional offer of employment was made "to a female candidate identified during the recruitment process with qualifications considered equal to those within the preferred candidate category."

The report includes no explanation for the flip-flop leading to Burpee's hiring.

[. . .] Wright, a University of Western Ontario graduate who also earned a master's degree in dispute resolution at York University, said he is "aware of that report, but I've never seen it.

"In fact, it was my awareness of the existence of that report that caused me to complain" last September.

[. . .] City councillors Susan Eagle, Joni Baechler and Harold Usher, DeCicco, Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, Blackwell and human resources director Veronica McAlea Major are named as defendants in Wright's complaint.

If mediation fails, the commission could send it to a tribunal for a full hearing that would end with a ruling on whether there was discrimination and order a remedy.

"They could make an order to hire (Wright), but that's a rare remedy," said Cliff.

It's unclear what that would mean for Joyce Burpee, the woman hired to the position of human rights specialist.

Burpee's qualifications have never been an issue.

[. . .] Legal experts have said the city didn't necessarily break the law if gender was a factor in the hiring, provided there is a good reason.

At city hall, it's estimated 80 per cent of harassment complaints are filed by women.

Controversy has dogged the position for years. The position was supposed to solve problems of harassment at city hall but went unfilled for at least 18 months, without council knowing.

Then last May, soon after her arrival, Burpee filed her own complaint against city hall chef Adam Kopala, whom she accused of race-related activities. An outside investigator was hired and the complaint dismissed, with Kopala returning to work in September.
Competent council we have here - only takes them 18 months to figure out such a fucking useless useful position was vacant. I guess no one made any complaints until Burpee herself was hired. Gotta justify those large trough portions you know.

Perhaps Bob Wright will be given the position of human resources specialist and so investigate the complaints made by Burpee, but it's more likely he'll just walk away with some free cash as a third moderator would be required to resolve frequent gender spats between the two.

1 Comment:

Mike said...

a master's degree in dispute resolution

Don't they give out Ph.D.'s in air guitar or unicorn theory any more?