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ONTARIO: Crown Attorney suspended over sexual harassment claims files suit against province

Daniel Mitchell had been suspended in May 2017 after an Assistant Crown Attorney filed two sexual harassment complaints and seven personal harassment complaints
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Courthouse
Thunder Bay Courthouse (Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – The former district Crown Attorney has launched a $1.7-million lawsuit against the province, alleging an unreasonable and unnecessary suspension led to the end of his career and contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Daniel Mitchell, who had served as the Thunder Bay Crown Attorney for 28 years, filed the statement of claim before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last month arguing the Ministry of the Attorney General's actions constituted a breach of contract and constructive dismissal.

Mitchell was notified of his suspension in May 2017 while attending a Crown Attorney’s conference in Niagara Falls. The legal filing alleges the Ministry of the Attorney General’s west region director informed him he was being placed on a paid leave, effective immediately, as a result of a complaint made by an unnamed individual.

The specific nature of the complaints was not learned by Mitchell until the next day when he received a response via email containing the allegations, which included two sexual harassment complaints and seven personal harassment complaints by one Assistant Crown Attorney he oversaw.

“Of the two sexual harassment complaints, both alleged a one sentence utterance, in the context of a joking atmosphere, in the presence of a third person witness, with no allegation of physical contact, or a request for, (or actual) sexual interaction, date, relationship, etc.,” the statement of claim reads.

The first sexual harassment complaint, which Mitchell denies, claimed he said two female Assistant Crown Attorneys should “mud wrestle” over which one would receive a vacant office. The second claimed Mitchell made a comment to the effect that the complainant looked like a Playboy bunny after a conversation began about the Playboy Mansion being listed for sale.

During the conversation notifying Mitchell of his suspension, it is alleged his government-issued phone was confiscated, he was told he was banned from his office, forbidden from working with anyone in his office and was threatened that he was being banned from the Thunder Bay Courthouse.

The statement of claim alleges the ministry’s west region director told Mitchell “if you are thinking of going for a walk tonight, I wouldn’t get too close to the Falls,” which Mitchell perceived to be a reference to committing suicide.

The case argues the ministry could have considered potential alternatives to the suspension which could have included relocating the complainant to Southern Ontario, Mitchell working out of Fort Frances or moving his office to a different building.

“There was no apparent consideration for how the consequences of the suspension would affect Mr. Mitchell, his mental health, his future authority over his office, or his reputation,” the statement of claim alleges.

“The suspension was of indefinite duration as it was to remain in effect pending the investigation, and quite possibly after the complaints had been dismissed or verified.”

Mitchell sought psychiatric care following the levying of the suspension and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The court documents state Mitchell was involved in the prosecution of more than 100 murder trials as lead or supervising Crown Attorney, as well as other cases of violent offences such as sexual assaults.

He was subsequently placed on medical leave and faced with loss of income he applied for his pension benefits, which ended his employment with the Ministry of the Attorney General effective Feb. 28.

The filing claims Mitchell intended to work at least two more years to reach 30 years as the Thunder Bay Crown Attorney, a milestone he would have hit on April 29, 2019.

“Mr. Mitchell devoted his life to the Service of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, logging untold thousands of unpaid overtime hours to accomplish that task,” the court documents claim.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

— Dougall Media/tbnewswatch.com




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