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This article was published 31/1/2017 (1289 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The NDP caucus has expelled Mohinder Saran — the Maples MLA accused of sexual harassment — effective immediately.
Saran fired back Tuesday afternoon, saying he is not guilty of any wrongdoing. "I deny the accusations that were made against me," he said a statement from his lawyer William Gange.
Caucus chair Tom Lindsey made the terse announcement to reporters Tuesday afternoon following an unexpected members-only, four-hour meeting that caught NDP staff by surprise.
Lindsey said in a brief statement the NDP will not accept sexual harassment in any form.
He refused to answer any questions.
Saran said he has co-operated with the process throughout, however nothing he has done — co-operated with a legislature human resources investigation, issued an apology in early January, underwent sensitivity training at his own expense — was an admission of guilt.
According to Saran's statement, some MLAs acted against him in an absence of facts, the media reported politically motivated malicious hearsay, and NDP sources have supplied inaccurate and selective information.
The caucus suspended Saran late last year after it became public an NDP staffer had told interim leader Flor Marcelino that Saran had allegedly sexually harassed her. It was the second sexual harassment allegation against Saran, the first having come late in the mandate of the former NDP government.
The legislature's human resources department had investigated the current complaint and directed Saran to undertake sensitivity training. Saran said through his lawyer that he gave the HR department written permission to allow one New Democrat MLA to read the investigation report, and then to take the information to caucus, but HR refused on the basis of confidentiality.
Following a 6.5 hour meeting in early January, the caucus extended Saran's suspension and directed he apologize and undergo an unspecified form of reconciliation with the complainant.
"If he digs his heels in, if he doesn't apologize, he's gone," an NDP source said at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Saran said Tuesday he had already apologized before that caucus meeting and declared he would never intentionally say anything offensive. "This is also why I was willing to continue with a further process to reconcile the issue," Saran said.
The complainant is still employed but has been moved to another job with the NDP. Her job did not depend on agreeing to reconciliation, the NDP has emphasized.
Saran has won The Maples seat three times, but barely defeated the Tory candidate by 127 votes last April, with the Liberal a strong third.
He is eligible to remain as an independent MLA, but cannot join another party under Manitoba election law without going through a by-election.
The NDP has come under criticism for the way it has handled the Saran situation and and for how long it's taken to resolve.
The first sexual harassment allegation came when the NDP was still in power, and did not lead to a formal complaint. The woman staffer was moved into a different job.
The Maples MLA Mohinder Saran's statement, released Tuesday afternoon through his lawyer William Gange:
In November 2016, a complaint to Human Resources Department of the Manitoba Legislature was made against me. I deny the accusations that were made against me. I have respectfully followed the HR process, including cooperating fully with a thorough investigation by third party lawyers, and completing a recommendation of the final HR report.
I would like to make it clear that the recommendation was not a statement of fault and that my completion of it was not an admission of guilt. I chose to complete the recommendation at my own cost in an effort to complete the process for both the staff person and myself.
Following the investigation, I had given written permission to the HR department for a designated caucus member to view the final report and relay all findings to caucus. The viewing of the report was denied by HR in order to retain legal confidentiality.
A statement from my lawyer was released to media in December to let the public know that there had already been a resolution in place. And, I provided an apology directed to everyone impacted for consideration at the meeting on January 10. I have personally remained quiet with media to uphold confidentiality and to respectfully allow the appropriate processes to take place. However, various NDP sources supplying inaccurate and selective information have been reported on by the media. These sources are not credible as they have no access to the findings of the confidential HR report. These individuals know that I am unable to argue factually against their inaccuracies, as doing so would break confidentiality.
I am disappointed that some media have published malicious hearsay without investigating the political motivations of their unnamed sources. I am also disappointed that my party did not acknowledge the apology I supplied prior to January 10 nor made any attempts to clarify inaccurate information and that certain members of the party appear to pass judgment in absence of facts.
I wish to now express to the public that I understand the feeling of being offended and would never intentionally choose words to offend. I value a respectful workplace. This is why I have consistently cooperated and been respectful of the human resources process and final recommendation. This is also why I was willing to continue with a further process to reconcile the issue.
I am now disappointed with the decision by the caucus today.
This whole situation has deeply impacted me both professionally and personally. I have spent my lifetime as a community advocate and decades as an NDP member. I would like to acknowledge those caucus members that have shown me support and been respectful of the process, and I appreciate my past and present employees, and community members who continually show their support for me. I will now sit as an independent and I assure you all that I will continue to devote myself to my constituents and my community.
I am currently considering my options including legal recourse, thus I and my lawyer will not be providing further statements at this time.