Nikki Kaur has retained legal counsel after she was fired from her director-level position inside City Hall Tuesday, a day after she finished second to Patrick Brown in Monday’s mayoral election.
“Last night, I finished second to Patrick Brown in the election. This afternoon, without explanation or notice, I was terminated from my employment at the City of Brampton,” Kaur said through her lawyer.
“Patrick Brown has once again tried to silence me for alleging wrongdoing and mismanagement at City Hall. I will not be silenced and will never stop standing up for what is right. I have retained legal counsel and will fight this injustice.”
One of Kaur’s main focuses as a mayoral candidate was addressing mismanagement of finances and widespread misconduct at City Hall, stating in the Brampton Board of Trade debate that Patrick Brown was the biggest threat to Brampton.
On Monday, after the results of the election, when asked if she feared reprisal for running against the incumbent mayor as a City employee, Kaur vowed to fight any action that might be taken against her.
“We’ll see because I’m not one to sit down and be quiet about it. If there is, we’ll talk about it,” she told The Pointer.
This isn’t the first time the senior staffer faced pushback from within City Hall after highlighting wrongdoing. As a whistleblower she came forward with evidence against Brown last year, and immediately paid the price, she said at the time.
In April 2021, she was fired from her position as director of corporate projects, police and government relations hours after she sent an email to the media, staff and council members with evidence and allegations that Brown and former CAO David Barrick, who was recruited by the mayor, engaged in widespread wrongdoing. She alleged delinquent hiring practices were used to bring on senior staff, contracts and procurements that went to their friends violated rules and City resources were used by Brown for his own political interests. Kaur provided her cell phone which showed WhatsApp messages from Brown directing her and other senior staff who didn’t work in his office to sell memberships for former federal Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay during work hours.
Hours after sending her whistleblower email, she was fired by Barrick.
It was reported that Brown visited Kaur’s home after she released the allegations. He would not deny this. Kaur told The Pointer that Brown did visit her and called a prominent community member on the phone to convince her to drop the matter. She refused.
Within about a week she was offered a director-level job in Planning, Building and Design, after a majority of council members, who a year later stated “democracy is under siege” in Brampton because of Brown, ordered Kaur to be hired back.
Barrick was fired by the same group of councillors early this year, despite Brown’s efforts to stop them.
Kaur has worked about four years at the City, first as director of corporate projects, police and government relations, then as a director in planning, building and design. She took an unpaid leave from the City while she campaigned for mayor.
Kaur shared the messages from Brown with The Pointer showing he directed City staff, including herself, to work on MacKay’s campaign on and immediately around May 11, 2020.
Kaur’s April, 2021 termination letter, signed by Barrick, stated her time with the City ended “as a result of your failure to accept the transfer to the position of Strategic Leader, Planning, Building & Economic Development Projects.”
Kaur said it was a fabricated reason and that she was let go as reprisal for coming forward as a whistleblower, hours after she sent her email with the allegations.
“It had a huge impact on my career because I would be kicked out of meetings, my technology wouldn’t work–it was just walking on eggshells but I stuck to it because I had to. The reality is a lot of stuff goes on inside, if I chose to be a whistleblower I had to handle the consequences and had to stand by the people,” Kaur said during an earlier campaign interview.
Her allegations led to an investigation by Deloitte. But Brown and his allies forced the investigation to be curtailed and it was ended before many of the key allegations were dealt with including Brown’s use of City staff. Kaur had yet to be interviewed when the mayor pulled the plug.
The key findings that were released included confirmation about Barrick’s alarming hiring practices, giving critical jobs to candidates without any of the required experience and at least one senior staffer who was let go because he refused to take part.
Wrongdoing was not found in some of the matters investigated, because Barrick simply changed the rules to suit his conduct.
Kaur told council during a public meeting prior to the election that she had been pressured to sign-off on approvals regarding contracts that had been awarded to friends of Brown and councillor Rowena Santos. The recently cancelled forensic investigations showed money was being requested by Brown’s friend, Rob Godfrey, whose firm was given one of the contracts, before the work was done.
Kaur told council members that when she raised her own concerns about how the required work was being monitored, Santos yelled at her, demanding approvals. Santos denied this, but the City’s integrity commissioner accepted Kaur’s version of the interaction, deciding that Santos likely did behave inappropriately. The commissioner said it did not amount to harassment, though, because Kaur said it only happened once.
Kaur previously said the mayor’s behaviour convinced her to run against Brown, who in August terminated six ongoing forensic investigations into his own involvement around hirings and the handing out of lucrative City contracts to his friends and associates.
On October 13, she went to Queen’s Park, joining a chorus of voices asking the Province to look into the controversies plaguing Brampton City Hall.
Despite her repeated efforts to hold individuals accountable through her whistleblower actions and reporting to council, she was not protected by Ontario legislation that is intended to prevent reprisal. It’s unclear if the City terminated her employment with or without cause.
Following Kaur’s firing Tuesday, Brown did not respond to a request for comment.
City Hall’s acting director of communications said staff do not comment on individual personnel matters.
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