Investigation finds former Keyano College president bullied staff, made irresponsible financial decisions

·3 min read
Trent Keough had several allegations made against him regarding his behaviour at work.  (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)
Trent Keough had several allegations made against him regarding his behaviour at work. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)

Former Keyano College president Trent Keough was found to have grossly mismanaged senior-level employees, public funds and the delivery of a public service, following a joint investigation by the Alberta Public Interest Commissioner and the college's board of governors.

Several Keyano College employees complained about Keough to the college's board and its commissioner. The reporting employees are protected by the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act.

"The investigation found repeated and ongoing incidents of conduct that would be considered bullying, harassment, or intimidation, by [Keough]," part of the investigation reads.

Keough's resignation was announced by the college in May 2020, so the report makes general recommendations.

They include bolstering the college's reporting process when its president and CEO is the subject of complaints, and regularly conducting impartial evaluations of the president's performance.

Keough targeted employee: report

There were multiple reports about Keough's behaviour in different settings, but one employee in particular was targeted, according to the report.

Keough would give them tasks with tough timelines and little direction, treat them unfavourably and inconsistently compared to other staff members, ridicule the employee in front of others, make condescending remarks, and undermine the employee during staff meetings and threaten their employment, the report says.

This behaviour reportedly happened daily and other staff were concerned for this particular employee's wellbeing.

Meanwhile, Keough would hold "wellness circles" which were supposed to be a place where staff could express concerns. But people reported being afraid to voice their opinion in this environment because Keough would cut them off or silence them whenever they tried to say something.

"The comments and actions of [Keough] were deliberate, objectionable, and unwelcome, and he ought to have reasonably known that the conduct would have offended or humiliated employees," the report says.

Keyano College staff were also concerned Keough fostered an "adversarial" relationship with the Alberta government, following an interaction between him and staff at the Ministry of Advanced Education in 2020.

Upset that the ministry had not provided advance notice on a decision it made, Keough wrote an email to the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister on Feb. 18, 2020, saying they should "get some class."

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

Other witnesses said Keough disclosed confidential information about bargaining and some information about an investigation into another employee's conduct.

He told one employee about impending layoffs, leading to grievances filed, "as employment information had not been properly communicated to affected parties or the union," the report says.

Hockey coach on salary without a team

The report details a pattern of Keough not consulting relevant parties, and making financial decisions without a plan or rationale.

One of Keough's financial issues began when he tried to start up various sports teams, but did so "without conducting proper consultation with the community or senior management, and without assessing the financial viability of the proposed teams."

Keough hired a hockey coach and paid them a salary, despite the college not having a team and other programs facing cutbacks. He implemented an "estimated" two hockey teams at the college, costing it an estimated $1 million.

"It was unclear to senior management how this funding would have been obtained as no financial plan was developed," the report says.

Keough also tried to fund a multi-million dollar arts centre at the college without consulting the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and before the project was approved by the provincial government.

Keough's conduct with donors also concerned staff. After one $650,000 donation, Keough posted on social media that it was the least the donor could have done.

In another incident, he thanked the wrong institution for a "sizeable donation by a financial institution," the report says.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting