Elizabeth May is asking Green party members to help cover the “new and unexpected” cost of a workplace bullying investigation into her own alleged behaviour — an investigation that she called for herself in the face of accusations from former staffers last week.
In an email to party members Monday, the longtime Green leader said the bullying accusations have cast “a shadow on our work,” and that she believed the party wouldn’t be credible again without an independent probe.
“That means new and unexpected costs for the party,” May wrote, noting she has asked the party to set aside “tens of thousands of dollars” even as it prepares for the 2019 federal election.
“If you could manage a donation at this time, it would certainly be appreciated,” she wrote. “I truly regret this situation and its impact on the party.”
Alex Tyrrell, a May critic who is provincial leader of the Green Party of Quebec, received the fundraising email from the federal party Monday afternoon. He said he thinks it was “completely inappropriate” for May to send a fundraising request related to the allegations.
“It’s ridiculous that she’s using the fact that people are accusing her of being a bully to raise money,” Tyrrell said.
Green party officials did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
May also refused to answer questions about the investigation when speaking to reporters outside the House of Commons.
“I’m not discussing that while the investigation is underway,” she said.
“I have tons of support and it’s been very heartening — very heartwarming for me — but I shouldn’t discuss any specifics or individuals while we’re having an independent investigation.”
Three former Green party staffers told the Star in late January that they had experienced or witnessed May shout at employees and put them down in front of others. May flatly denied the allegations, while the party’s executive director Emily McMillan said she can’t recall ever seeing the longtime leader yell in anger at a party staffer.
In response to the allegations, May said she insisted the party hold an independent investigation into the allegations from the three staffers to “put the matter to bed.” The party hired Toronto lawyer Sheila Block to conduct the investigation, and May pledged to publicly release the results of the probe.
Diana Nunes, the Green party’s director of finance from 2004 to 2015, is one of the three former staffers accusing May of workplace bullying. She said Monday that she feels like the Green party is trying to use the situation to their advantage by fundraising off of serious allegations about the leader’s conduct.
“How do they turn this around and use this as a fundraiser? It’s just a sham, this whole thing,” she said.
Vanessa Brustolin, another former staffer who has claimed May yelled at her and put her down in front of colleagues when she worked for the party last summer, said she was appalled that the party would try and fundraise by “painting” May as the victim of allegations.
Both Brustolin and Nunes said they are troubled by May’s involvement in the decision to hire an outside investigator, given that May is the subject of their allegations.
They have also criticized the party for hiring Block without consulting them, and have called on the party to widen the scope of the investigation to include other current and former employees who have concerns about May’s alleged workplace conduct.
Dimitri Lascaris, a Montreal lawyer and former member of the Green party’s shadow cabinet, said he quit in opposition to May’s leadership in 2016. He told the Star Monday that he’s concerned over party statements about the former staffers making the bullying allegations.
The party said in a statement Jan. 27 that the allegations are “simply the statements of disgruntled former staff” and that May is being held to an unfair standard because she is a female political leader. The party’s deputy leader, former MP Bruce Hyer, also told the Hill Times Monday that the allegations are motivated by “sour grapes” of former staffers who were let go by the party.
“There’s a level of pre-judgment there,” Lascaris contended. “If they’ve already come to that conclusion, why are they spending thousands of dollars of party money to conduct an investigation?”