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Report outlines emotional toll of House of Assembly harassment allegations on complainant

Placentia-St. Mary’s MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh speaks to reporters Tuesday outside the House of Assembly.
Placentia-St. Mary’s MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh speaks to reporters Tuesday outside the House of Assembly. - Joe Gibbons

Placentia-St. Mary’s MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh’s complaint against Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce outlines a deteriorating relationship that ultimately led Gambin-Walsh to an emotional breakdown just outside the House of Assembly.

While the report, completed on Oct. 18 by Commissioner for Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk, finds evidence of wrongdoing by Joyce on one of six complaints, the story told by Gambin-Walsh shows a difficult relationship with Joyce.

The complaint that led to a recommendation of punishment for Joyce centres on an Occupational Health and Safety management job.

On Sunday, April 8 at 4:05 p.m., Gambin-Walsh received an email from Joyce.

“Can you call me,” read the email.

“I waited for approximately 20 minutes after receiving the email before I phoned him. I didn’t want to phone him. My husband was in the kitchen with me; I told him who had emailed me and I said ‘he is mad with me, I know he is, but I got to phone him – he’s a minister, God help me,” wrote Gambin-Walsh.

A friend of Joyce’s had applied for an Occupational Health and Safety management position on the west coast. Gambin-Walsh says Joyce wanted to make sure his friend got the job and to make sure Gambin-Walsh saw the appointment happen.

Gambin-Walsh says she emphasized to Joyce her deputy minister was responsible for hiring.

“It was useless to tell Minister Joyce this. He didn’t want to hear it,” wrote Gambin-Walsh.

Joyce continued to call Gambin-Walsh to pressure her into making sure his friend got the job. Gambin-Walsh says Joyce’s friend did not make it through the hiring process because “he was not qualified for the job.” She says Joyce “was not happy with this.”

Gambin-Walsh describes another phone argument she had with Joyce about the appointment, which ultimately ended with her hanging up on Joyce. She says she was upset by the incident, but didn’t want her family to know.

“I composed myself, put Visine in my eyes so my husband would not notice that I was upset, and returned to the kitchen,” wrote Gambin-Walsh.

Soon after, a meeting between Joyce, Gambin-Walsh and the premier’s chief of staff, Greg Mercer, was called, but Gambin-Walsh says the meeting was not successful.

In his response, Joyce denies all allegations made by Gambin-Walsh pertaining to the job competition.

Joyce, through a lawyer, writes that he only wanted a “heads up” about the candidate, as he would be dealing with the person through his duties as an MHA.

Chaulk sided with Gambin-Walsh on this matter.

“I find that the manner in which he addressed this issue was unprofessional and showed a lack of mutual respect towards members of the public service by placing those individuals in the middle of a process that is supposed to be politically impartial,” writes Chaulk.

“This type of conduct is not acceptable and must be discouraged.”

Gambin-Walsh goes on to describe the further deterioration of her relationship with Joyce, culminating in the day the province learned she had filed a complaint.

Gambin-Walsh says earlier that day there was a cabinet meeting, where another minister told the cabinet that Gambin-Walsh had filed a formal complaint about Joyce – though the report doesn’t say which minister first outed Gambin-Walsh.

She was brought to her department with two other ministers, offering support.

“I could not believe what had happened,” she wrote.

After going downstairs and speaking with the media, Gambin-Walsh says, she went into the House of Assembly for that day’s sitting, not realizing Joyce would be in attendance.

“QP that day was extremely difficult,” wrote Gambin-Walsh.

“His presence in the House had a very negative impact on me that day. I was shaken and could not concentrate.”

She says when a recess was called, the premier passed by her without a word. She says other members came to her aid and she was taken by then-MHA Cathy Bennett into a nearby bathroom.

“I went into the bathroom with that MHA and I broke down. My (executive assistant) went for her car and security led me out the back door away from media,” she wrote.

“When I came into my house I went to the bedroom and broke down. My daughter was home and she tried to console me.”

In his reply, Joyce says he can’t comment on what happened that day, as it was the day he was removed from cabinet and he was not aware of anything said inside the meeting. He also says he cannot comment on Gambin-Walsh’s “emotional state or her powers of concentration in the House of Assembly that day.”

Speaking with media outside the House of Assembly on Tuesday, Gambin-Walsh said she is not pleased with how the investigation was handled.

“It’s been very difficult on me personally, but I have managed to work through it,” she said.

“I strongly believe that an organization that is qualified in investigation conduct, behaviour, and behaviour as a whole should have been the process that we took.”

The House of Assembly will review each complaint report filed by Chaulk. Only two of the five reports filed recommend any reprimand for either Joyce or Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby.

Once the reports are debated by MHAs, the fate of Joyce and Kirby will be decided.

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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