Delay on Dhinsa harassment charges not ‘nefarious,’ lawyer says

News Aug 28, 2009 Ancaster News

There was nothing “nefarious” about delays in filing disciplinary charges against a Hamilton police sergeant accused of sexually harassing 13 women colleagues, a police lawyer says.

Colleen Robertshaw offered the first public account of how Chief Brian Mullan missed a key deadline on the charges during closing arguments in Ontario Superior Court last week on her motion to have a $4-million lawsuit by two complainants dismissed.

A hearing officer quashed 24 disciplinary charges against Sgt. Kevin Dhinsa more than two years ago after ruling the chief had filed them eight days after a statutory deadline.

Chief Mullan, Hamilton police services board and its lawyer, Marco Visentini, are defendants in the lawsuit, initially launched by 12 complaints last December. Ten dropped out last week.

A 13th complainant has come forward and is part of a grievance filed on behalf of all the women by their police association, the court heard. Ten of the women, including the remaining two plaintiffs, only identified as Jane Doe 11 and 12, have also filed a complaint to Ontario’s human rights commission.

A key issue in the lawsuit is the plaintiffs’ allegation that Chief Mullan and his codefendants were negligent in missing a six-month deadline for filing the disciplinary charges, a ruling both parties unsuccessfully sought to appeal through the courts.

Ms. Robertshaw said an internal disciplinary review committee recommended Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Dhinsa in minutes approved by the chief on May 29, 2006 –eight days before the six-month deadline of June 6.

But before serving notice to Sgt. Dhinsa, she said Chief Mullan first had to find an available hearing officer and arrange a hearing date. The Niagara Regional Police Service initially agreed to supply an officer on June 5, but withdrew the offer a week later. The following day, the chief selected Robert Fitches, a retired OPP superintendent, serving Sgt. Dhinsa notice of the charges the next day.

“There were necessary steps to confirm a hearing date and that’s what they did,” she said.

Ms. Robertshaw said her clients continue to believe Mr. Fitches wrongly ruled that the six-month deadline was a statutory time limit and that the period at issue began on Dec. 6, 2005, when all of the originally 12 complainants had been interviewed.

She said other adjudicators have ruled that the time period begins when an officer responds to allegations –Sgt. Dhinsa did so on Feb. 28, 2006 –but Mr. Fitches’ decision stands because of the unsuccessful efforts to appeal it.

“We still think it was wrong, but we’re stuck with it,” she told Justice James Turnbull.

Ms. Robertshaw also rejected the lawsuit’s allegation that the police board showed bad faith in refusing to initiate an independent inquiry into the matter –as requested by the complainants and two women’s police associations –arguing it couldn’t legally do so.

“That’s a provincial function,” she said. Despite her arguments in the defence of

her clients’ actions, Ms. Robertshaw is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed before it is formally heard, contending the court has no legal jurisdiction.

She said the lawsuit stems from “allegations grounded in conduct in the workplace” and a series of court rulings have created binding case law that such matters are properly addressed through the police association’s collective agreement.

But Helen Pelton, lawyer for the remaining two plaintiffs, said a grievance won’t provide the punitive damages of a lawsuit or address Chief Mullan’s alleged negligence in filing the disciplinary charges in a timely way.

Because it is controlled by the police association, the grievance could also see a settlement that offers little more than an apology, she said, arguing the court has jurisdiction if the remedies are ones only it has the power to grant.

“They’re asking you to do something extremely drastic, to shut these women out of coming to court,” Ms. Pelton said of the dismissal motion.

“Not everything that happens in the workplace is covered by the collective agreement. You have to actually look at the facts,” she said. “We’re complaining about the chief’s conduct. We say he was negligent. We say his conduct was tortious.”

A decision on Ms. Robertshaw’s motion is pending.

Delay on Dhinsa harassment charges not ‘nefarious,’ lawyer says

News Aug 28, 2009 Ancaster News

There was nothing “nefarious” about delays in filing disciplinary charges against a Hamilton police sergeant accused of sexually harassing 13 women colleagues, a police lawyer says.

Colleen Robertshaw offered the first public account of how Chief Brian Mullan missed a key deadline on the charges during closing arguments in Ontario Superior Court last week on her motion to have a $4-million lawsuit by two complainants dismissed.

A hearing officer quashed 24 disciplinary charges against Sgt. Kevin Dhinsa more than two years ago after ruling the chief had filed them eight days after a statutory deadline.

Chief Mullan, Hamilton police services board and its lawyer, Marco Visentini, are defendants in the lawsuit, initially launched by 12 complaints last December. Ten dropped out last week.

A 13th complainant has come forward and is part of a grievance filed on behalf of all the women by their police association, the court heard. Ten of the women, including the remaining two plaintiffs, only identified as Jane Doe 11 and 12, have also filed a complaint to Ontario’s human rights commission.

A key issue in the lawsuit is the plaintiffs’ allegation that Chief Mullan and his codefendants were negligent in missing a six-month deadline for filing the disciplinary charges, a ruling both parties unsuccessfully sought to appeal through the courts.

Ms. Robertshaw said an internal disciplinary review committee recommended Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Dhinsa in minutes approved by the chief on May 29, 2006 –eight days before the six-month deadline of June 6.

But before serving notice to Sgt. Dhinsa, she said Chief Mullan first had to find an available hearing officer and arrange a hearing date. The Niagara Regional Police Service initially agreed to supply an officer on June 5, but withdrew the offer a week later. The following day, the chief selected Robert Fitches, a retired OPP superintendent, serving Sgt. Dhinsa notice of the charges the next day.

“There were necessary steps to confirm a hearing date and that’s what they did,” she said.

Ms. Robertshaw said her clients continue to believe Mr. Fitches wrongly ruled that the six-month deadline was a statutory time limit and that the period at issue began on Dec. 6, 2005, when all of the originally 12 complainants had been interviewed.

She said other adjudicators have ruled that the time period begins when an officer responds to allegations –Sgt. Dhinsa did so on Feb. 28, 2006 –but Mr. Fitches’ decision stands because of the unsuccessful efforts to appeal it.

“We still think it was wrong, but we’re stuck with it,” she told Justice James Turnbull.

Ms. Robertshaw also rejected the lawsuit’s allegation that the police board showed bad faith in refusing to initiate an independent inquiry into the matter –as requested by the complainants and two women’s police associations –arguing it couldn’t legally do so.

“That’s a provincial function,” she said. Despite her arguments in the defence of

her clients’ actions, Ms. Robertshaw is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed before it is formally heard, contending the court has no legal jurisdiction.

She said the lawsuit stems from “allegations grounded in conduct in the workplace” and a series of court rulings have created binding case law that such matters are properly addressed through the police association’s collective agreement.

But Helen Pelton, lawyer for the remaining two plaintiffs, said a grievance won’t provide the punitive damages of a lawsuit or address Chief Mullan’s alleged negligence in filing the disciplinary charges in a timely way.

Because it is controlled by the police association, the grievance could also see a settlement that offers little more than an apology, she said, arguing the court has jurisdiction if the remedies are ones only it has the power to grant.

“They’re asking you to do something extremely drastic, to shut these women out of coming to court,” Ms. Pelton said of the dismissal motion.

“Not everything that happens in the workplace is covered by the collective agreement. You have to actually look at the facts,” she said. “We’re complaining about the chief’s conduct. We say he was negligent. We say his conduct was tortious.”

A decision on Ms. Robertshaw’s motion is pending.

Delay on Dhinsa harassment charges not ‘nefarious,’ lawyer says

News Aug 28, 2009 Ancaster News

There was nothing “nefarious” about delays in filing disciplinary charges against a Hamilton police sergeant accused of sexually harassing 13 women colleagues, a police lawyer says.

Colleen Robertshaw offered the first public account of how Chief Brian Mullan missed a key deadline on the charges during closing arguments in Ontario Superior Court last week on her motion to have a $4-million lawsuit by two complainants dismissed.

A hearing officer quashed 24 disciplinary charges against Sgt. Kevin Dhinsa more than two years ago after ruling the chief had filed them eight days after a statutory deadline.

Chief Mullan, Hamilton police services board and its lawyer, Marco Visentini, are defendants in the lawsuit, initially launched by 12 complaints last December. Ten dropped out last week.

A 13th complainant has come forward and is part of a grievance filed on behalf of all the women by their police association, the court heard. Ten of the women, including the remaining two plaintiffs, only identified as Jane Doe 11 and 12, have also filed a complaint to Ontario’s human rights commission.

A key issue in the lawsuit is the plaintiffs’ allegation that Chief Mullan and his codefendants were negligent in missing a six-month deadline for filing the disciplinary charges, a ruling both parties unsuccessfully sought to appeal through the courts.

Ms. Robertshaw said an internal disciplinary review committee recommended Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Dhinsa in minutes approved by the chief on May 29, 2006 –eight days before the six-month deadline of June 6.

But before serving notice to Sgt. Dhinsa, she said Chief Mullan first had to find an available hearing officer and arrange a hearing date. The Niagara Regional Police Service initially agreed to supply an officer on June 5, but withdrew the offer a week later. The following day, the chief selected Robert Fitches, a retired OPP superintendent, serving Sgt. Dhinsa notice of the charges the next day.

“There were necessary steps to confirm a hearing date and that’s what they did,” she said.

Ms. Robertshaw said her clients continue to believe Mr. Fitches wrongly ruled that the six-month deadline was a statutory time limit and that the period at issue began on Dec. 6, 2005, when all of the originally 12 complainants had been interviewed.

She said other adjudicators have ruled that the time period begins when an officer responds to allegations –Sgt. Dhinsa did so on Feb. 28, 2006 –but Mr. Fitches’ decision stands because of the unsuccessful efforts to appeal it.

“We still think it was wrong, but we’re stuck with it,” she told Justice James Turnbull.

Ms. Robertshaw also rejected the lawsuit’s allegation that the police board showed bad faith in refusing to initiate an independent inquiry into the matter –as requested by the complainants and two women’s police associations –arguing it couldn’t legally do so.

“That’s a provincial function,” she said. Despite her arguments in the defence of

her clients’ actions, Ms. Robertshaw is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed before it is formally heard, contending the court has no legal jurisdiction.

She said the lawsuit stems from “allegations grounded in conduct in the workplace” and a series of court rulings have created binding case law that such matters are properly addressed through the police association’s collective agreement.

But Helen Pelton, lawyer for the remaining two plaintiffs, said a grievance won’t provide the punitive damages of a lawsuit or address Chief Mullan’s alleged negligence in filing the disciplinary charges in a timely way.

Because it is controlled by the police association, the grievance could also see a settlement that offers little more than an apology, she said, arguing the court has jurisdiction if the remedies are ones only it has the power to grant.

“They’re asking you to do something extremely drastic, to shut these women out of coming to court,” Ms. Pelton said of the dismissal motion.

“Not everything that happens in the workplace is covered by the collective agreement. You have to actually look at the facts,” she said. “We’re complaining about the chief’s conduct. We say he was negligent. We say his conduct was tortious.”

A decision on Ms. Robertshaw’s motion is pending.