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Toronto Trustee Elizabeth Moyer harassed two senior staff, report finds

Trustee Elizabeth Moyer harassed two senior staffers at the Toronto District School Board by hugging and touching one and making a sexually suggestive comment to another, say the results of a confidential investigation, the Star has learned.

The complaint against the Scarborough Southwest trustee was launched by executive superintendent Jim Spyropoulos last year.

He alleged Moyer inappropriately touched his face and hugged him “in a way that was unwelcome.”

It later expanded to include a second complaint from executive superintendent, Manon Gardner, who alleged Moyer told her “I would so do you” at an official board function in 2011.

The investigation, conducted by an outside law firm, found Moyer violated code of conduct and workplace harassment policies, and chastized the trustee for her inappropriate conduct.

The report regarding Moyer’s conduct is not believed to make any recommendations on possible disciplinary measures.

Moyer said Wednesday she would not comment on a report that has not yet been shared with trustees.

“There is a process and I have been respectful of that process regardless of what’s been thrown at me,” she said.

“The board hasn’t seen the report, and I haven’t had a chance to respond, so I will not break what should be handled in private.”

The findings against Moyer come as Toronto trustees battle allegations they have bullied and intimidated board staff for years — as well as each other.

At a meeting last Wednesday, Trustee Howard Goodman was accused of behaving in a threatening manner toward director of education Donna Quan. That incident — which she called the “tipping point” for staff — led her and three senior educators to write to the chair of the board, claiming this was not the first instance of abusive behaviour by a trustee and it had to stop.

Goodman has said he was not yelling, but arguing passionately about an issue.

Insiders say some trustees routinely harangue staff, scream at them, hurl insults and barge into their offices for hours on end, or phone them after hours with demands.

Staff feel uncomfortable refusing their requests or even filing complaints for fear the elected officials — who have the final say on promotions — could ruin their careers.

Three or four trustees have also launched complaints against one another, or for inappropriate behaviour they’ve witnessed, saying that they, like staff, feel unsafe.

The deluge of bad behaviour prompted chair Chris Bolton to request police officers for Wednesday night’s meeting, to show the board is serious about getting the bad behaviour under control.

The investigation found Moyer intervened on behalf of her two daughters to get them jobs in a youth program run by Spyropoulos — one meant for at-risk youth — and said it could possibly constitute a conflict of interest.

Both of Moyer’s daughters were employed by the program in the summer of 2012. In 2013, the trustee was found to have “indirectly” lobbied with the help of a superintendent, who the Star has previously reported sent an email to Spyropoulossaying: “Good evening! Could you kindly help with (Moyer’s daughter) and a summer position? Thanks and please advise.”

Moyer has previously told the Star she did not pressure Spyropoulos to hire her two daughters in 2012, but did speak to him about it.

Last June, when Moyer was first accused of harassing Spyropoulos, she told the Star she was being targeted for being a “whistleblower” after she’d raised concerns about potential financial irregularities at the board, including some with the youth jobs program.

While Spyropoulos had accused Moyer of wielding her power as chair of the audit committee to intimidate him, the investigation could not confirm that.

Spyropoulos, in his original complaint, said Moyer had hugged him and touched his face, which made him feel uncomfortable.

The report’s findings were based on interviews with Spyropoulos, Moyer and witnesses.

Moyer was the trustee for Scarborough Southwest for nine years, until 2003. She was elected to the position again in 2010 after an unsuccessful run for city hall in 2006.

Although she has indicated she will seek re-election this fall, Moyer has not yet registered as a candidate for the Ward 18 trustee position.

Toronto Trustee Elizabeth Moyer harassed two senior staff, report finds