Taken on it's own, a press release sent out by the city yesterday was a bit on the mysterious side. "Bill Richardson, Guelph’s Transit’s recently hired Supervisor of Transit Mobility, is no longer employed with the City of Guelph, effective this afternoon," it said.
The release went on to say the termination notice was tied to an arbitration ruling in a Hamilton court yesterday, the circumstances of which were not known at the time of Richardson's hire. It also said that Richardson's application to the Guelph job came complete with two satisfactory references from the Hamilton Street Railway. So it begs the question, what went wrong?
On its own merits, the press release doesn't have much to say, but fortunately, a Guelph Mercury article went into much more detail.
"Richardson began Sept. 9 as Guelph Transit's supervisor of mobility services. Nine days later a decision was released in a grievance arbitration involving a female Hamilton Street Railway employee who complained of Richardson sending her pornographic and lewd emails, making sexual comments and gestures and touching her against her wishes over a period of several years."
The employee was awarded $25,000 in damages, while Richardson received a severance package of $200,000 in spite of his lying about sending the employee "pornographic e-mails." For his part, Richardson says he knew nothing about this latest court process. "I never attended the arbitration … and I have no idea what was said," he said. "I was really not allowed to be part of that."
As for the people running the City of Guelph, there are both apologies and excuses. "We are committed to a respectful workplace [which is] free of potential harassment," said David Godwaldt, general manager of human resources. "It's something we will be reviewing internally and speaking with Hamilton directly," he added.
Now accidents happen, of course, but those looking for competence and due diligence in how the city manages its hiring practices will surely not be impressed. There's still a lot of unanswered questions in regards to what's happened here, and I think some people will find the city's excuse about getting good references and not knowing about the pending court action to be kind of weak tea. Sadly, it just looks like another black mark on Transit's already shaky record over the last couple of years.