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Edmonton Coun. Jennifer Rice offers apology, but says reports she bullied staff are 'inaccurate'

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Jennifer Rice, the Edmonton city councillor for Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, is disputing reports that she bullied staff and created a toxic work environment, but is still refusing to take questions about what happened.

In a statement sent to reporters Friday afternoon, Rice wrote: "I feel the way I have been portrayed in recent media reports is inaccurate."

Her statement comes after it was revealed Monday that several former staff members are accusing Rice of "bullying" and being "toxic and abusive" toward employees.

CTV News Edmonton interviewed two of those employees and Postmedia spoke with several others.

Journalists attempted to interview Rice about the allegations on Monday at city hall but she walked away from questions, instead saying she was focused on the budget.

Rice's statement refers to the allegations as "troubling" and says she is taking them "very seriously" before talking about budget deliberations and her immigration from China.

"As a Chinese immigrant, caring and loving for one another and working hard are fundamental principles for me as an individual and a city councillor," she wrote.

"Speaking loudly at times is a cultural trait as my first language involves many different tones."

On the topic of the allegations she's facing, Rice offered an apology and said she is arranging workplace training, which her current staff will be invited to.

"I’m saddened to learn through these news articles that some people felt they did not have a good employment experience, and if this is their perception, I am sincerely sorry," Rice said.

City officials confirmed this week that in her roughly two years on council, Rice has had a total of 19 employees in her office.

No other councillor has had more than six in that time and councillors Sarah Hamilton and Erin Rutherford have had just two staffers each.

Rice said that number is missing context because she hires temporary, casual, contract and summer staff.

"I have enjoyed working with some very good staff but I am unable to provide more detailed information because that would violate their privacy," she wrote.

Edmonton's mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, told reporters on Monday that he plans to sit down with Rice to discuss the bullying and toxic workplace allegations.

Sohi also said he will ask the city's integrity commissioner to look into them.

"I am deeply concerned and troubled by these very serious allegations being brought against councillor Rice," Amarjeet Sohi said.

"Everyone working for the city, including mayor's office, councillors office, deserve and have the right to have a safe working environment."

One of the staffers that spoke out about Rice called on her to resign her council seat, but in her statement Rice said she will continue to represent the voters of her ward.

"This will be my final comment on this matter," her statement concluded.

CTV News Edmonton asked Rice follow-up questions but did not receive an immediate response.

  

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