The City of Trail denies it breached the contract of a former top administrator or was responsible for her constructive dismissal.
In a statement of defence filed in BC Supreme Court, the city also says Michelle McIsaac may have breached her own contract by viewing a recording of an in-camera meeting, but it can’t be sure, because she refused to co-operate with an investigation into the matter.
In her statement of claim, filed last month, McIsaac alleged she was subjected to harassment and a “toxic and intolerable” work environment until she finally left in June. She’s seeking damages for wrongful dismissal and unpaid vacation pay as well as special, general, aggravated and punitive damages, costs, and interest.
McIsaac worked for the city for more than 20 years and was corporate officer for most of that time.
She filed a bullying and harassment complaint against Colleen Jones and three other members of council in February 2022 which was upheld by an external investigator. She filed a second complaint that April and took medical leave from July to December.
The city says the terms of her return included working remotely, having a flexible schedule, participating in meetings virtually with her camera off, and having no direct interaction with the mayor. The city also agreed to reimburse her for legal fees, although the amount is not disclosed in the statement of defence.
Among other things, McIsaac claimed she was “deliberately excluded” from meetings that required her attendance and blamed and scapegoated by CAO Colin McClure, but the city says that either was not the case or the allegations aren’t detailed enough for them to meaningfully respond.
The city says McIsaac was not excluded from any meetings except those where her complaint was being discussed. The city also says that in response to her second complaint, the city hired another investigator, but McIsaac refused to participate.
The city claims it learned in May 2023 that McIsaac viewed a recording of in-camera council meeting that took place on Oct. 5, 2022 where council discussed an offer from McIsaac’s lawyer to mutually end her employment.
While her lawyer “provided an explanation for her actions in viewing the recording … the [city] did not accept the explanation as providing a reasonable basis for her to have done so.”
The city wanted to have an investigator look into her conduct to see if it constituted a breach of her employment obligations, but she refused to participate.
The city denies it breached McIsaac’s contract, unlawfully fired her, constructively dismissed her, or fired her at all.
It says she resigned on June 23 and was paid wages and benefits until Aug. 3. The city also denies she suffered any losses, or if the court finds that she did, it says any damages should be reduced by the value of what she received during that period.
“The plaintiff by her conduct caused or contributed to any loss or damage by resigning from or abandoning her employment, and by failing to mitigate her damages,” the statement reads.