Conflict in “insane” Whitby town council continues as councillor levies allegations of workplace harassment and abuse

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Published October 19, 2021 at 5:14 pm

The ongoing conflict between Whitby’s town councillors came to a head in last night’s council meeting where Councillor Rhonda Mulcahy called Whitby Council “insane” for repeatedly making the same mistakes.

Mulcahy’s speech is the culmination of weeks of drama from town hall that began after a hot-mic moment in the last council meeting.

While he thought he was muted, Deputy Mayor Christopher Leahy said, “Let’s hear what Big Rhonda has to say,” as Mulcahy prepared to speak about a prospective cricket pitch. Mulcahy replied, “Yeah, let’s hear what I have to say. Thanks, Councillor Leahy.”

Nothing more was said about it in that meeting. Mayor Don Mitchell later said he had not heard the exchange.

Leahy apologized Mulcahy a day later, which she rejected for seeming insincere.

Leahy later filed a report against himself with the town’s integrity commissioner, a highly unusual move. At the time he said, “I want to make sure that I am doing everything possible to remedy the situation. In this spirit, I have filed a request with the integrity commissioner to investigate this matter.”

Leahy also announced he would publicly apologize at the next meeting, on October 18. That meeting did indeed begin with Leahy’s apology.

“Words matter, so do actions,” he said, “I want to take the time to offer Regional Councillor Mulcahy a full and unreserved apology.”

“I don’t want my actions to distract us from the hard work of serving the community.” He extended his apology to his fellow councillors, town staff and Whitby residents.

Mulcahy accepted Leahy apology this time, saying “if it’s done properly it goes a long way.” She continued by highlighting a variety of harassing emails she’s received in the two weeks since the last council meeting.

“I’m the last person in the school yard the bullies should call names,” she said, “Accepting an apology does not mean accepting, in a broader sense, bad behaviour.”

Mulcahy gives a shout out to her supporters and the women who shared stories of their struggles with weight, with shame, with sexual assaults, with harassment and with abuse. “I have cried for them this week. Not me.”

She refuted statements made by other councillors and the Mayor that no complaints had been filed, describing an incident in 2017 in which Councillor Maleeha Shahid was “cornered in a parking lot being screamed at by another councillor.”

She also outlined an event in 2019 in which she said she was assaulted. “During a public event, while seated at a table I received a shoulder massage and the words to the rest of the table were ‘Stay away from this one, she’s trouble.'”

She says when she brought this up to  Mitchell, she was told, “‘I’m sorry, I thought you were stronger than that.'” While continuing to put Mitchell on blast she said, Being sorry it has ended up this way “is not sorry for your action or inaction in leading us here… I do not believe that someone who makes sexual innuendos about a female member of staff on their knees ‘gets it”.'”

Mulcahy then turned to fellow councillors, thanking Roy, Lee and Shahid for their support, condemning the silence from Newman and Drumm and telling Yamada and Leahy, “I actually don’t blame you as much as you think I do. I expected as much. You never fail to deliver.”

This story continues to develop. Mitchell and Mike Gaskell, Whitby’s CAO have refuted these allegations. Their responses will be featured in future stories.

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