FREDERICTON – A legislative committee in New Brunswick has concluded that harassment allegations against Speaker Chris Collins were founded, but only in part.
The legislature’s administration committee met for two hours Monday before deputy Speaker Bernard LeBlanc emerged to read a prepared statement, saying the committee had received a summary of findings from an independent, third-party investigator.
“The investigation was conducted in an impartial and fair manner,” LeBlanc said outside the legislature. “It was extensive and is now complete.”
LeBlanc said investigator Leslie Macleod concluded that a complaint of harassment lodged against Collins earlier this year was “founded in part,” and that there was a violation of the province’s workforce harassment policy.
The name of the complainant and details of the allegations have yet to be released.
LeBlanc said committee members would not be commenting on the findings, and he declined to answer questions when reporters pressed for details.
Premier Brian Gallant later issued a statement, saying he expected a remedy to be determined by the “appropriate authority within the legislative branch.”
“We take any allegations of harassment seriously and must always work to ensure we have safe and respectful workplaces,” the Liberal premier said.
Gallant announced in early April that Collins was being suspended from the Liberal caucus, saying the premier’s office had been made aware of potential allegations of harassment in February, but the complainant didn’t come forward with allegations until two months later.
In May, Collins announced he would sit as an Independent while pursuing a case of libel and slander against the provincial government.
Collins’s lawyer, T.J. Burke, has said his client was given no information about the nature of the allegation but would fight them “tooth and nail.”
The member for Moncton Centre said Gallant’s decision to suspend him was done without any concern for his rights or those of the complainant.
“I was placed upon the altar of public consumption then and there, for reasons not yet completely clear,” Collins wrote in May.
Collins said he has never seen a human resources matter handled in this manner, saying the actions of the premier have damaged his political opportunities in the provincial election set for Sept. 24.
First elected to the provincial legislature in a 2007 byelection, Collins had previously served three years as a Moncton city councillor. He was briefly minister of local government under former Liberal premier Shawn Graham, and was elected Speaker after the Liberals returned to power in September 2014 under Gallant.