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'Just more hiding': Leduc approves $165K for anti-bullying plan, but city still facing heat

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In an effort to clean up its workplace culture, Leduc City Council approved $165,000 in new funding Monday night, but several women alleging mistreatment are still not happy with how the situation is being handled.

The money, which was unanimously approved, will fund the creation and implementation of an "equity, diversity and inclusion" plan.

In February, a lawsuit was filed against the Leduc Fire Department by two former female firefighters who allege physical and sexual assault, harassment and bullying while on the job.

"We are listening. We hear you. We acknowledge that there is work to be done within the organization," City Manager Derek Prohar said at the council meeting.

"We are doing our due diligence and working as swiftly as we can to ensure that the City of Leduc is a safe and respectful workplace for everyone. Under my leadership, the culture of this organization will change."

A third-party investigation into the allegations was conducted by firm Veritas Solutions, but Prohar cited privacy law as the reason it will not be made public. He also refused to answer several questions from reporters about the city's response following the meeting.

Leduc is not doing enough, said a former female employee who quit publicly earlier this month, but is not involved in the lawsuit.

Former firefighter paramedic Megan Wright was at the meeting and scolded council and Prohar for several minutes.

"If you're tired of seeing me and hearing me, know I'm pretty tired too. I'm tired of bringing this issue to you and there is no addressing it, just more hiding behind lawsuits and reports," Wright said.

"I resigned not because I'm not good enough. I resigned because Leduc Fire is not good enough for me…I'm tired of the mayor and the administration acting like it's not a big deal. It is a big deal."

'A SLAP IN OUR FACE'

One of the women who has signed onto the lawsuit, Mindy Smith, also expressed her frustration at Monday's meeting.

"You can put all of the money you want into this, but the implementation is the problem, because there's no buy in because it's right from the top down. It's the management, the officers that need to be looked at. That's the issue," Smith told council.

Two employees with the Leduc Fire Department, including the chief, left the service in March.

Mayor Bob Young has refused to comment on the nature of those departures, but he has said that "disciplinary action" within the department has taken place.

"They're trying to push forward and continue to hide things and until that is rectified, we're going to keep doing this," said Christa Steele, who is also suing Leduc Fire.

"When you're saying that people have been disciplined, that's not fact. People resigned, there was no discipline…That's a slap in our face. It's not true."

Prohar said more information about how the money will be spent will be coming in the "next few weeks."

"The overall elimination of any bullying, harassment and descrimination is the ultimate goal," he told council.

The lawsuit has not been proven in court, and a lawyer for the plaintiffs is attempting to have it certified as a class-action. A statement of defence will be filed by the city in the coming weeks.

Leduc has launched a search for a new fire chief.

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