The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ordered the City of Nanaimo to provide documents to a former employee who has filed a complaint.
The tribunal ruled the City of Nanaimo had to turn over a trove of documents to Victor Mema, the city’s former chief financial officer, in advance of an upcoming hearing, according to a written decision released last month.
Mema has filed a human rights complaint with the BCHRT accusing the city of discriminating against his ancestry, race, place of origin and colour.
A public hearing is scheduled to take place beginning Oct. 21.
Documents the tribunal ordered the city to provide to Mema include e-mails relating to the hiring of a deputy director of financial services, e-mails relating to his suspension, legal invoices and other expenses involving a city employee, copies of procurement documents and e-mails regarding the development of the manager of treasury position.
However, the tribunal also ordered Mema to provide the City of Nanaimo’s legal counsel with his 2018 tax return and notice of assessment, documents relating to an alleged investigation by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta and as well as medical records and doctors’ notes. He has also been ordered to destroy a letter he obtained from an “external counsel” to City of Nanaimo that is subject to solicitor-client privilege.
The BCHRT’s ruling was in response to separate applications for disclosure made by Mema and legal counsel representing the City of Nanaimo.
The City of Nanaimo could not be reached for comment while Mema told the News Bulletin he would not comment publicly on the matter at this time.
Mema was fired last May following a two-month suspension. At the time, the city never disclosed the reason for his suspension, but announced it was conducting an independent investigation into allegations of “significant concern.”
Included in the tribunal’s written decision are specific details regarding Mema’s human rights complaint against the city. According to tribunal documents, Mema alleges there was never an investigation following his suspension, that his suspension was “a pretext to get rid of all black Africans” employed at the city and that the city failed or refused to properly consider black candidates for positions.
Mema also alleges that his race, ancestry, place of origin and colour were “factored” into a complaint brought forward by city employees, who accused him of “serious” misconduct and that as a result of his suspension, he was not only forced to resign as a board member with Canadian Association of Government Finance but was “subjected to ridicule” at a professional conference and was placed under investigation by CPA Alberta.
In one example provided by Mema, according to tribunal documents, he claims that a month after he hired a “qualified black African” to work as deputy director of financial services in January 2018, there was an in-camera council meeting where an unnamed councillor read out text messages that Mema said indicated “[union] members were unhappy that blacks were being hired in the financial services department.”
For its part, the City of Nanaimo has denied Mema’s allegations, including the claim that an investigation never took place following his suspension or that any of their employees made “discriminatory” remarks, according to the tribunal.
The city also responded, according to tribunal documents, by saying that Mema’s suspension was “based entirely on his misconduct” and that he was later fired for “having engaged in significantly serious misconduct, including behaviours and actions entirely inconsistent with his role as the city’s chief financial officer.”
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