Brampton Councillor Santos cleared of harassment and bullying allegations


Published August 19, 2022 at 12:09 pm

Rowena Santos is Brampton's Regional Councillor for Wards 1 and 5.

The city’s integrity commissioner says Coun. Rowena Santos didn’t bully or harass a city staffer who is now running for mayor of Brampton.

“We make no finding that Councillor Santos bullied or harassed the staff member,” Principles Integrity said in its report released on Wednesday (Aug. 17).

The allegations were made by city staffer and current mayoral candidate Gurdeep Nikki Kaur while speaking to Brampton City Council in May regarding the now-frozen Brampton University project.

Kaur worked on the BramptonU project and said Santos screamed at her in front of other staff members in 2020, an accusation Santos has steadfastly denied.

The allegations derailed the meeting and led to council calling on the integrity commissioner (IC) to investigate.

While clearing the councillor of any harassment or bullying, the IC said it was satisfied that “a conversation took place” between Santos and Kaur in January of 2020 and that “the Councillor’s words and tone were upsetting to the staff member.”

“We find that the incident which upset the staff member occurred on a single occasion,” the report reads. “There is no evidence of another incident involving this staff member and the Councillor, nor is there evidence of the oral exchange amounting to what could be described as ‘severe’.”

Santos called the accusations “over the top” and that she “understands what it means to have her voice silenced or ignored, particularly because of her gender and ethnicity.”

“Over the past few months, these false allegations have been used to weaponize and smear my credibility,” Santos said in a statement provided to inSauga. “Along with those who know me, I have been incredibly perplexed with such false allegations referring to one meeting over 2 years ago. I am pleased the Integrity Commissioner has now ruled that such allegations were unfounded.”

As the only woman at the council table, Santos said she works to “bring big ideas forward for the City of Brampton.”

“This has made me a target to some who attack such bold ideas and prefer me to remain silent,” she said.

RELATED: Brampton City Hall whistleblower Gurdeep Nikki Kaur running for mayor

Kaur previously made claims of corruption at Brampton City Hall, leading to an investigation which concluded last year.

Auditing firm Deloitte dismissed most of the complaints as unsubstantiated or without merit, and the findings were in line with earlier investigations by both the Peel Regional Police and the Ontario Ombudsman.

Kaur is also running for mayor of Brampton in the October municipal election against incumbent Patrick Brown.

“Passion to pursue ideas for the city does not equate to harassment,” Santos said. “All women should be empowered to raise their voices and bring forward their ideas and opinions. This is fundamental to who I am.”

The IC’s findings brought the harassment and bullying allegations to a close, but Santos is still the subject of a separate investigation into possible conflicts of interest between herself and David Wheeler – a former professor of Santos’ and a consultant on the BramptonU project.

A report from the city found Wheeler had billed more than $4,200 in airfare and accommodations to the city months before the project was given the green light.

Santos had previously cleared her connection to Wheeler with the IC in 2019, who found “no bearing on his involvement” with the project, according to documents obtained by inSauga.

The university file is currently the subject of a forensic audit following revelations that more than $629,000 to four vendors for the project between 2019 and 2021, with nearly half of the deliverables under the BramptonU umbrella unable to be found.

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