A third-party investigation, following a leave of absence taken by Qualicum Beach Coun. Robert Filmer, has found no evidence of discrimination, bullying or harrassment.
In December 2020, Filmer publicly announced he was taking a two-month leave from council, citing a “toxic” environment. In his statements to media, he indicated his leave was a result of what he believed to be age and sexual orientation discrimination.
The town immediately initiated the third-party investigation. The goal, according to a town press release issued Feb. 9, was to independently and impartially examine the allegations through a series of interviews, a review of written evidence, video evidence, policy and law.
Later on Feb. 9, Filmer issued a statement that called the release “extremely misleading” and added it only tells “part of the story.”
“Harassment, bullying and/or discrimination of any kind is a serious matter and must not be tolerated in the workplace, at any level of government or in society as a whole,” said Mayor Brian Wiese via the release.
The investigators released their findings which determined there is “no evidence of discrimination, bullying or harassment as described by policy or law.”
However, it also concludes communication has been strained and misunderstandings have been prevalent between council members during the past two years.
Wiese and councillors Filmer, Scott Harrison and Teunis Westbroek unanimously voted at an in-camera meeting on Feb. 8 to issue the public statement, including a release of the summary of findings. The release also indicated council has also encouraged Filmer to write a public apology.
“We welcome the return of Coun. Filmer to serving the people of Qualicum Beach,” said Wiese.
In his own statement, Filmer said he “stands firm in his belief that bullying and harassment have no place in any workplace.”
After reading the report, “it became clear to me that some of my fellow councillors gave a pattern of facts that does not square with my notes or memory,” said Filmer. “Therefore, I was pleased to vote for the release of the investigator’s report because I am more than happy to have a full discussion with the public about this important issue.”
Filmer added it is “also apparent that certain questions were posed to other staff and council members but not to me, which leads me to question the conclusions reached in the investigation.”
“Furthermore, it is not lost on me that council is choosing to ignore how I felt when inappropriate comments were made to me. Instead of dealing with this issue in a forthright and transparent manner, an extremely misleading press release was distributed that only tells part of the story,” he said. “It worries me that complications like these may make it even harder for others to bring forward their concerns about workplace bullying and harassment in the future. Instead of initiating a candid conversation about how things can be improved, I feel that council is now engaging in victim shaming, which is patently unacceptable.”
Filmer said he looks forward to “resuming my work for the people of Qualicum Beach when these issues have been resolved, and I am grateful for all my supporters who continue to stand behind me throughout this process.”