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This article was published 18/8/2020 (686 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Bear Clan Patrol's board of directors is taking another swing at ousted founder and former executive director James Favel, pushing back against alleged "misinformation" that surfaced in the wake of his dismissal from the organization last month.
In a statement released Tuesday, the board outlined rebuttals to six "false statements" that arose in recent weeks as Favel responded to the news of his abrupt ousting.
"James Favel has not been forthcoming about the causes for his dismissal," the statement said, while declining to provide further information about the departure, citing privacy concerns.
On July 31, the board announced that Favel — who revived the Bear Clan in 2014 after the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine — would no longer be serving as executive director.
No public explanation was provided, and Favel was silent for more than a week before making rounds in the media with the assertion that he felt "betrayed and bullied."
He told the Free Press last week that his dismissal stemmed from his resistance to "massive board overreach" within the volunteer organization, and pointed to concerns over television appearances and travel honoraria he has received as additional reasons for his removal.
At the time, Bear Clan board chair Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais told media Favel's dismissal was a result of his "inappropriate conduct" towards staff, which the board was not able to disclose due to privacy concerns. Robinson-Desjarlais also criticized Favel for not having walked with the Bear Clan's regular patrols in more than a year, which Favel chalked up to health issues.
The board’s latest statement disputes claims that its members overreached prior to Favel’s removal and that he was dismissed without warning, doubling down on the misconduct concerns and citing human resources complaints.
"It is the Board’s responsibility to hold the executive director accountable and ensure the effective, professional operation of Bear Clan in compliance with all applicable laws. Serious human resources issues came to light, that were independently confirmed, and they are among the reasons for his dismissal," Tuesday's statement said.
Favel has spoken of an ongoing conflict with his office manager, who was asked to check in with the board before acting on his instructions. The board has denied Favel's allegations, instead focusing on independent investigations into his conduct towards employees.
"There were significant, ongoing concerns from a number of participants relating to staffing and accountability, primarily revolving around James. In the assessor’s opinion, the potential impact could be a total breakdown of the organization as a whole," read one quote from a March 2020 independent human resources workplace evaluation.
"Mr. Favel does not believe that he has done anything wrong, however, his treatment of (name redacted) has been unprofessional and intimidating. Although he has been asked to apologize to (name redacted) for his mistreatment, he has not done so to date," read a further quote from the July 2020 Manitoba Workplace Health and Safety report investigating complaints about the conduct.
The Free Press has not seen either report in full.
The statement further claims Favel responded to formal staff complaints in March by hiring a lawyer and "attempting to dismiss the Board."
"This was the third time he resorted to this tactic," the statement said. "He had similarly fallen out with, and forced to dissolve, two previous Boards."
The statement referred to several other concerns Favel raised in interviews about his dismissal, including: ongoing concern over the increased presence of the Winnipeg Police Service among board directors; disputes over the exact figures of the organization's finances; concerns about board diversity; and the timing of the next annual general meeting. Many of the issues had been discussed by the board chair in prior media reports.
A chorus of commenters slammed the board's statement on social media Tuesday, calling it "vindictive" and "unprofessional," with some using the hashtag #StandWithJames. Several commenters celebrated Favel's work in founding and building the organization, with many recognizing him as the public face of the Bear Clan and criticizing the organization for airing "dirty laundry" through social media posts.
Favel relaunched the Bear Clan in 2014 with $900 and 12 volunteers, growing the organization into an internationally recognized community-safety model with more than 2,000 local volunteers and several breakout chapters.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a petition calling on the board to reinstate Favel as executive director had gathered more than 1,900 signatures.
Neither Favel nor representatives from the board were available for comment Tuesday.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.