The ministry employs a small army of lawyers who handle criminal and civil cases. Lawyers and staff in the division prepare cases, prosecute some, mediate others, and provide advice to senior bureaucrats. Report author Macleod is a lawyer and mediator in private practice and a former Ontario assistant deputy attorney general. Orsini does not comment on specific cases, a spokesperson told the Star. For her report, Macleod interviewed lawyers and administrative staff, which represents more than a quarter of the affected employees. Her report does not give specifics, likely to protect the confidentiality of lawyers and other staff who spoke out.
Instead, she groups her findings into different areas, and then makes recommendations for change. One senior, unnamed bureaucrat is singled out repeatedly in the report for negative behaviour. On the issue of complaints of racism, Macleod found all kinds.
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Her investigation noted a high level of turnover for lawyers at the ministry, due to the difficult working conditions. She also found turnover at the management level.
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In one case, a department had five legal directors in seven years. The report notes bad behaviour at offices across the province, with the epicentre being Bay St. Fear of reprisals from senior management, who would move lawyers to another department if they spoke up and complained, kept the lid on the problem for years. Ministry lawyers have played a sort of black humour game, trying to put faces to the code names. And then there is the issue of the law itself. Given the extreme dysfunction, is the work taxpayers are supporting getting done?
In her report, Macleod pointed to top brass as the overall problem. A ministry spokesperson provided a general response to the Star, but would not deal with any specific issues raised in the report. We are committed to continuing this drive toward collaborative and positive change. Sources within the ministry have told the Star that despite the words of the spokesperson, little has changed and outside help is required.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at or kdonovan thestar.
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