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City mum on 'resolution' of lawsuit involving mayor's office

Former staffer sued city, alleging harassment by mayor's chief of staff

Greater Sudbury isn't commenting on a settlement reached between the city and a former staffer in the mayor's office who claimed she was harassed.

The case centres on Alicia Lachance, who alleges she was harassed by Mayor Brian Bigger's chief of staff, Melissa Zanette, while Lachance was a public relations assistant after Bigger's election victory in October 2014. Lachance sought $150,000 for being wrongfully dismissed, another $150,000 in aggravated and punitive damages, her legal costs and any other award “the court deems just.”

In her statement of claim, Lachance says that she was a “well-respected” member of former Mayor Marianne Matichuk's office, where “she enjoyed significant status and professional prestige,” the lawsuit states.

But problems began soon after Bigger's victory when Zanette became her immediate supervisor.

“The mayor's office and its staff were treated with daily criticism, while the chief of staff's behaviour became radical, erratic and unprofessional,” the statement of claim reads.

“She began bullying, intimidating and she began to stalk the plaintiff on her Facebook page. The chief of staff's behaviour became verbally abusive and was often not justified to the situation that presented itself.”

The city filed a statement of defence denying any wrongdoing and refuting all allegations.

The statement says Lachance's work was not satisfactory, that she made grammatical, spelling and other errors, missed deadlines, “inefficiently managed her time” and “seemed distracted and unfocused while at work.

“The plaintiff was provided with support and constructive feedback on how to improve her performance,” the defence claim says. “The plaintiff was not receptive to any form of feedback or criticism regarding her work performance. She grew hostile towards her supervisor and towards any assignment she considered to be unimportant.”

The city also says it hired an independent investigator to look into the allegations, and the investigation concluded that Zanette “had not engaged in a course of conduct that was vexatious and had not created a hostile work environment.”

The case was scheduled to go to trial this week, but in an email Tuesday, city communications manager Marie Litalien said the parties involved have “reached a resolution."

“Because the case involves confidential employment matters, we are not in a position to offer further comment,” Litalien said in the email.