HALIFAX: Richmond County’s former recreation director has filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the municipality.
On January 4 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax, the lawyer representing Josette Marchand of Petit de Grat filed a notice of action against the Municipality of the County of Richmond seeking compensation for the loss of income, compensation for the loss of employment benefits, and damages for the nature of her dismissal, as well as false allegations of wrongdoing.
Since starting with the municipality in 2011, Marchand was employed as the Director of Recreation, Leisure and Community Relations. Marchand’s statement of claim said net recreation costs were reduced by $100,000 and she secured over $200,000 in funding for the department through registration fees and special grants during her time.
The statement of claim contends, “Marchand was regularly congratulated for her initiatives and was consistently under budget for her department.” The statement also states that “Marchand was never over-budget for travel and routinely made decisions that were always aimed at reducing costs.”
According to the statement, Marchand became ensnared in the spending scandal involving other municipal employees around March of 2016.
“… Marchand repaid a duplicate payment immediately upon becoming aware of it through a Freedom of Information disclosure, and she brought the issue to the attention of Richmond’s personnel at the same time.”
About seven months later, Marchand’s name was again brought up in relation to the controversy over expense claims which “caused significant embarrassment.”
“In or about September 2016, an ombudsman’s report about Richmond expenses was leaked to the media and the report erroneously attributed to Marchand an expense for attending a ‘strip club’ in Houston, Texas,” Marchand’s statement of claim reads. “Marchand spent three weeks resolving this error with the ombudsman, without any assistance from Richmond.”
After former Chief Administrative Officer Warren Olsen resigned in October 2016, he was eventually replaced by interim CAO Maris Freimanis who advised Marchand in writing around May 1, 2017 that she was terminated for cause.
“… Marchand was escorted from the building, and when she tried to organize her desk so that her work product would be available to Richmond, she was advised to leave,” the statement reads.
Marchand’s statement recalls that after being provided with general reasons for her termination, no specific examples were given. She also claims that she “routinely alerted Richmond’s finance department that it was overpaying her by way of expense reimbursement.”
Marchand said all issues with expense reporting were the result of the municipality’s “failure to enforce policy and provide appropriate staff training” and any wrongdoing was caused by other personnel. She added that she was targeted by other employees and some councillors.
“… Prior to her termination, she was the target of allegations by Richmond personnel and/or members of Richmond County Municipal Council aimed at removing her from her position…”
In the notice of defence, the municipality denies Marchand was wrongfully dismissed or that it did anything that would render it liable for damages.
The defence contends that an organizational review in March, 2017 uncovered wrongdoing by Marchand.
“During the time of the review, it was discovered that the plaintiff had falsified expense claims including the submission of more than one claim for the same travel expense and claiming expenses for items for which appropriate receipts could not be provided,” the defence notice reads.
The municipality asserts that it followed proper procedure in terminating Marchand’s employment.
“At the conclusion of this meeting, the Plaintiff abruptly left the office of the CAO and returned to her office to collect her belongings,” the statement reads. “An employee of the Defendant was asked to assist the Plaintiff with anything she required at that time. The Plaintiff was provided with approximately 20-30 minutes in her office to collect her personal items. She was asked to leave her office when it appeared that she was deleting items from a cell phone issued to her and belonging to the Defendant. Following her termination, the Plaintiff used her Apple ID to erase her iPhone.”
None of these allegations have been proven in court.