Title:  Foreign Affairs workers sue department for alleged harassment: Employees say trouble began when they questioned overspending

Byline:  Jim Bronskill

Source:  Ottawa Citizen, July 8, 1998, Final Edition, p.A4


Two Foreign Affairs employees say they have been

systematically harassed for trying to halt lavish abuses that cost

taxpayers billions of dollars.

  John Guenette and Joanna Gualtieri have filed a lawsuit against the

government alleging they were emotionally abused and ostracized for

questioning spending on the overseas accommodations enjoyed by

foreign service officers.

  The statement of claim, filed recently in Ontario Court, says the

``culture and environment'' of Foreign Affairs does not allow them

to do their jobs with integrity.

  ``In fact, it promotes loyalty to the department over and above all


  Both Mr. Guenette and Ms. Gualtieri work for the department's

bureau of physical resources, which manages a $3 billion portfolio

of real estate and other assets abroad.

  The lawsuit names eight members of Foreign Affairs, including

Minister Lloyd Axworthy, as well as the federal attorney general.

  The department, which is defending the action, has not yet filed a

statement with the court.

  Foreign Affairs spokesman Dexter Bishop said it was too soon to

discuss the allegations.

  ``They'll be addressed in our statement of defence, and in the

meantime it's very difficult for me to be able to comment on the

specifics,'' he said.

  The employees' claim says before July 1993, when the bureau was

turned into a special agency, it was largely directed by a cadre of

senior foreign service officers ``with a fixation on securing for

themselves, while posted abroad, grandiose and luxurious

accommodations and lifestyles at the expense of the Canadian

taxpayer. The abuses of governing policies were rampant.''

  It alleges the ``careerism and opportunism'' have worsened in

recent years, costing taxpayers at least $2 billion during the past


  Mr. Guenette joined the bureau in 1982 with an extensive background

in real estate. Ms. Gualtieri, a lawyer and former property

developer, has worked there since 1992.

  The two employees claim their efforts to work ``in an efficient,

ethical and accountable fashion'' have prompted harassment from

supervisors over the past six years that has made them clinically

depressed, requiring ongoing care.

  Both have been on leave since late April. The statement says they

were continually met with ``hostility, resistance and ridicule''

from department members in various capitals abroad. It adds that

they took their concerns to senior department members, their union,

the Public Service Commission and other parties.

  ``All proved ineffective and/or unable to properly redress the

issues and damages at hand,'' the statement said.

  The employees seek a minimum $36 million in damages, the bulk of

which would be used to establish a non-profit advocacy organization

with a mandate to represent and protect the rights of government


  The organization's role would include lobbying for changes to

federal employment practices, particularly those relating to matters

of integrity, abuse of power and harassment.

  The federal government says there are already appropriate avenues

for employees to raise concerns of mismanagement, as well as

adequate protection for those who speak up about waste or fraud.


Copyright Ottawa Citizen 1998 All Rights Reserved.



Title:  Duo denounces lavish lifestyles Employees claim harassment over attempts to halt diplomatic spending

Byline:  Allan Thompson TORONTO STAR

Source:  The Toronto Star, July 9, 1998, Final Edition, p.A25


OTTAWA - Public spending on housing for Canadian diplomats is

under attack in a lawsuit by two foreign affairs department

employees, who say they were harassed for trying to halt lavish

spending on residences abroad.

  John Guenette and Joanna Gualtieri, who work for the operating

agency that manages the $3 billion portfolio of residences abroad,

have filed a suit against the government alleging they were

emotionally abused by their superiors at the department after

complaining about lavish spending by diplomats.

  The statement of claim filed by the pair contends that before

management of the housing portfolio was turned over to a specialized

agency in 1993, it was directed by senior foreign service officers

and bureaucrats ``with a fixation on securing for themselves, while

posted abroad, grandiose and luxurious accommodations and lifestyles

at the expense of the Canadian taxpayer.''

  ``The abuses of governing policies were rampant,'' they claim.

  The pair contend that such abuse has cost the Canadian taxpayer

``at least $2 billion'' in the last 10 years. But the statement of

claim doesn't provide any details.

  (According to the auditor- general, the foreign affairs department

spends about $200 million a year maintaining overseas housing for

Canadian representatives abroad, so the entire budget for spending

in the past decade would barely exceed $2 billion.)

  In their lawsuit, the pair are seeking a total of $6 million in

damages for themselves and punitive damages of $30 million to be

used to establish an advocacy organization to represent and protect

the rights of government employees.

  Dexter Bishop, a spokesperson for the foreign affairs department,

said yesterday that there is a limit on what he can say about the

law suit because the foreign affairs department hasn't yet filed its

legal response.

  ``We're not making any comment on the case itself,'' Bishop said.

  ``With regard to the allegations that the department squanders

money, the truth is that the department follows governmental

regulations and directives on spending of money for property

management and its acquisition,'' Bishop said.

  Bishop said the department is obliged to follow very strict

guidelines, and that all major spending must be approved by Treasury


  ``The contention, frankly, that public servants manipulate the

process so as to secure for themselves lavish accommodation abroad

is really quite preposterous in general terms,'' Bishop said. ``But

I'm not commenting on the case.''

  Coincidentally, the auditor- general published a detailed report

last fall on the way the foreign affairs department handles its

housing portfolio.

  John Hitchinson, the person in the auditor-general's office

responsible for reviewing the foreign affairs department, said that

the study did make some criticism of the way money is spent on

residences abroad.

  Hitchinson stressed that he is in no way commenting on the current

lawsuit, but he said the most recent auditor-general's report, and a

previous study done in 1987, didn't turn up anything that he would

characterize as a boondoggle worth hundreds of millions.

  ``I didn't see anything here that would qualify as a boondoggle,''

Hitchinson said.

  In fact, the auditor-general noted that the operating agency had

made ``significant progress'' in some areas of its property


  One of the auditor-general's criticisms was that the foreign

affairs department doesn't have an over-all maintenance plan for its

official residences abroad.

  Instead, renovations and repairs are done on a case- by-case basis,

after an inspection report. And in nearly half the cases reviewed by

the auditor-general, repairs or renovations exceeded what was

outlined in the inspection reports.

 ``The department has spent large amounts on renovating and

repairing official residences when heads of mission changed, without

clearly establishing the requirements,'' the auditor-general


  The report also criticized spending on larger residences for the

purpose of official entertaining. It found the more expensive

accommodation was often not used much for that.


Copyright The Toronto Star 1998 All Rights Reserved.




Byline:  Megan Gillis; Ottawa Sun

Source:  Toronto Sun, July 11, 1998, Final Edition, p.27


Two civil servants who blew the whistle on $2 billion in

alleged diplomatic perqs told a tribunal yesterday that they were

harassed in retribution.

  The public service staff relations board must decide whether the

alleged harassment and resulting depression are a workplace danger

and injury under the Canadian Labor Code. The case was adjourned

until August.

  John Guenette and Joanna Gualtieri claim they were abused for

questioning "grandiose ... accommodations and lifestyles" for

diplomats to the tune of $2 billion over a 10-year period at

taxpayers' expense.

  Safety officer Daniel Strickland testified he found no evidence of

danger as defined by the Canadian Labor Code.

  But lawyer Charles Gibson, representing Guenette and Gualtieri,

said: "We're trying to break new ground. The legal question is

whether the danger defined by the labor code applies to something

other than a physical one."


Copyright Toronto Sun 1998 All Rights Reserved.



Title:  Medal deserved for suing federal department

Byline:  Denis E. Murphy

Source:  Ottawa Citizen, July 27, 1998, Final Edition, p.A8


  A medal of appreciation should be struck by the Canadian

taxpayer for this man. John Guenette following his $36-million suit

against the Department of Foreign Affairs (``Foreign affairs workers

sue department for alleged harassment,'' July 8.)

  Unfortunately what will undoubtedly happen is that he will be

vilified, lied about and driven from his profession -- and I doubt

if anything will change!

  This harassment technique drove me from my 36-year career with the

department in 1991. Foolishly, I believed in the internal grievance

system which, as I ruefully learned, is not in place to protect the

individual, but rather to protect the department.

  As I pointed out to the then Director-General of Personnel Michael

Conway, it's not the fact that middle management can do what they do

and get away with it; the bitter part is that they know they can! He

thought that was ``cute!''

  Good luck, Mr. Guenette -- you will need it.

  Denis E. Murphy, Embrun


Copyright Ottawa Citizen 1998 All Rights Reserved.



Title:  Ottawa rejects spending abuse charges

Byline:  Norma Greenaway; Ottawa Citizen

Source:  Calgary Herald, December 11, 1998, Final Edition, p.B12


The federal government has dug in its heels against two

public servants who have filed a $36-million lawsuit alleging

rampant abuse of taxpayers' dollars and relentless harassment by

their superiors for refusing to keep quiet about it.

  A federal response to the suit characterizes the accusations as

"mischievous and irrational" and argues any physical and emotional

distress suffered by the two employees had nothing to do with their

treatment by supervisors in the Foreign Affairs Department.

  The statement, filed in the Ontario Court, says the case should be

thrown out because the allegations are unwarranted and


  The lawsuit, launched last June, charges there have been at least

$2 billion of unnecessary and unacceptable spending at diplomatic

facilities abroad since 1986.

  The government statement, a lengthy point-by-point denial of the

allegations, signals it is prepared to put up a vigorous defence if

the case isn't dismissed before it gets to trial.

  John Guenette, one of the public servants, said he and colleague

Joanna Gualtieri, 37, are braced for battle despite mounting legal

costs, adding they have no shortage of evidence of wrongdoing and

are organizing documents for court.

 Guenette and Gualtieri, who are on unpaid leave from the

department, say they their efforts to expose abuses met a brick

wall. Management ignored the information and "deliberately chose a

pattern of conduct that degraded, marginalized and demeaned them,

stripping them of their duties," they say in their statement of


  The federal government replied that if the duo suffered harm it was

caused by their "failure or willful refusal to recognize and follow

the lines of authority and decision-making' and "their failure or

willful refusal to avail themselves of available avenues of


  The government rejected charges the employees were sidelined after

they started to make waves.

  The lawsuit names the federal attorney general, Foreign Affairs

Minister Lloyd Axworthy and eight department officials. At a

pre-trial hearing last month, the government failed to have the

defendants reduced to just the attorney general.


Copyright Calgary Herald 1998 All Rights Reserved.



Title:  Condos once thought too lavish, now home to Canadian diplomats: Foreign Affairs defends decision to spend $1.1M on spacious units in Guatemala City

Byline:  Norma Greenaway

Source:  Ottawa Citizen, February 14, 1999, Final Edition, p.A3


The apartment complex lived up to its name -- the Premiere


  Spacious and secure with magnificent vistas. Three swimming pools.

Two tennis courts and two squash courts. A gym and a clubhouse. In

short, an oasis within steamy, crime-infested Guatemala City.

  No wonder administration personnel at the Canadian Embassy there

recommended purchasing three apartments -- at $255,000 U.S. each --

in the Premiere Club in 1995 as part of the Department of Foreign

Affairs' plan to ditch expensive, leased space in favour of buying

properties in various capitals.

  It looked like a done deal until an official from Ottawa arrived on

the scene in early 1995.

  Joanna Gualtieri, a portfolio manager in Foreign Affairs' Bureau of

Physical Resources, balked after seeing the complex, which was still

under construction, and studying floorplans.

  In a Jan. 23, 1995, memo to her Ottawa boss Frank Townson and

embassy administrators, she said the apartments were too large and

extravagant and that more suitable, secure and less costly housing

was available.

  ``It appears the Premiere Club is, in fact, marketing a lifestyle

-- one that will attract and appeal to wealthy, affluent

Guatemalans,'' she wrote.

  ``Suffice to say that the issue is not whether the units adequately

meet our requirement but, rather, whether the units simply exceed

what could reasonably be defended as appropriate housing.''

  Within days of her memo arriving in Ottawa, the Premiere Club

purchases were abandoned and Ms. Gualtieri was instructed to find

more suitable, cost-effective housing.

  She identified six properties, a mix of houses and apartment units,

that would meet the embassy's requirements. One house was eventually

purchased for $168,000 U.S., but no action was taken on the other

suggestions, all with pricetags lower than the Premiere Club.

  Instead, 26 months after rejecting the Premiere Club as too lavish,

the government bought three in March 1997 for almost $1.1 million


 Foreign Affairs defends the Guatemala purchases, but offers no

direct explanation as to why units deemed too lavish in 1995 were

acceptable in 1997.

  James Fox, who was ambassador to Guatemala when the purchases were

aborted, refuses comment, although the documents show he favoured

searching for more reasonable accommodation. Daniel Livermore,

ambassador when the purchases were made, has also declined public


  Department spokesman Valerie Noftle says the three units were

considered a good buy and a good investment because their value on

the market has increased steadily in the last two years.

  She says they provide secure housing with protected outdoor space

in a high-crime city. Security guards are part of the gated complex,

meaning the government doesn't have to provide and finance 24-hour

guards, she adds.

  Ms. Noftle says the annual cost of housing diplomats in Guatemala

has been reduced to $112,000 a year from $325,000 a year since 1995

because there are fewer rental properties and lower security costs.

  She also says the apartments conform to Treasury Board guidelines;

documents show they do not. A 1995 memo from Christal Becker, an

architect in the Bureau of Physical Resources, put the size of the

apartments at 186 square metres, at least 40 square metres larger

than Treasury Board provisions for a unit that contains three

bedrooms and a den, or family room.

  The documents show that soon after the Premiere Club purchases were

cancelled early in January 1995, Ambassador Fox, who according to

Ms. Gualtieri's notes took a keen interest in the project, was told

by Mr. Townson that he could proceed with the purchase of at least

four units identified by Ms. Gualtieri.

  But the documents also indicate some Guatemala-based diplomats were

upset at the last-minute decision to ditch the Premiere apartments

in favour of less spacious, cheaper options in less convenient and

less secure zones.

  A March 2, 1995, memo from Christine Brassard, administration

officer at the embassy, suggests the degree of the unhappiness after

the Premiere purchases were aborted.

  She wrote that Ms. Gualtieri had essentially pulled the plug on the

Premiere Club purchases after only ``three working days in the


  Ms. Brassard concludes Ms. Gualtieri and headquarters had put price

above other considerations, including security, access to

recreational and other facilities and investment value.

  In a Telex to Mr. Fox, Mr. Townson acknowledged the staff's concern

about a ``perceived downgrading in the accommodation being

provided.'' But he added; ``The fiscal realities with which the

government is faced demand that every effort be made to reduce

expenditures wherever possible.''

  Ms. Gualtieri's notes say Mr. Fox was dealing with a ``full-fledged

mutiny'' by Canadian staff unhappy with the new housing proposals

and that he was not getting the support and direction he wanted from


  On March 8, Ms. Gualtieri says Mr. Fox told her he was at the ``end

of how far he will go'' with the housing project, that he had

``stuck his head (out) and got it cut off.''

  Part of the problem, the documents indicate, was confusion over who

had final authority to order the purchases, the ambassador or the

bureaucrats in Ottawa.

  In the end, all purchases were put on hold, pending development of

a new strategy.

  The new strategy -- 26 months later -- turned out to be purchasing

the once-rejected Premiere Club apartments.


Copyright Ottawa Citizen 1999 All Rights Reserved.



Title:  Government whistleblowers move closer to trial

Byline:  Jon Waddell

Source:  The Ottawa Citizen, July 15, 1999, Final Edition, p.D8


A $36-million lawsuit by two Department of Foreign Affairs

employees has moved a step closer to trial.

  John Guenette and Joanna Gualtieri filed a lawsuit last year

against the federal government , alleging they were emotionally

abused and ostracized for questioning spending on the overseas

accommodations enjoyed by foreign service officers.

  The statement of claim said the culture and environment at Foreign

Affairs did not allow them to do their jobs with integrity.

  Lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendant were involved in

examinations for discovery last week.

  Charles Gibson, lawyer for Mr. Guenette and Ms. Guarltieri, said Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd xworthy could be a witness. However, government lawyer Linda Wall said it is unlikely

Mr. Axworthy will appear because he had little to do with the

situation. ``He doesn't even know these people,'' she said.


Copyright Ottawa Citizen 1999 All Rights Reserved.



Title:  Spin doctors have all the 'answers': From 'good' stories to 'no comment,' foreign affairs ready

Byline:  Fabian Dawson ; Staff Reporter

Source: The Province (Vancouver), December 9, 1999, Final Edition, p.A9


Spin doctors in Ottawa have prepared an extensive

communications strategy to save the department of foreign affairs

from "embarrassment" caused by claims of diplomats living the high


  The strategy was developed to counter the negative publicity

surrounding the housing of overseas staff at Canadian diplomatic

missions, documents obtained by The Province show.

  Admitting that some parts of the allegations by department

employee, Joanna Gualtieri have been found to be true, the

backgrounder to the strategy paper reads ". . . the evidence may be

quite embarrassing to the department since it concerns what these

employees have portrayed as a gross neglect and mismanagement of

taxpayer money in the selection of accommodation for employees


  Two federal bureaucrats familiar with government communications

said the strategy outline, prepared late last year, would have cost

tens of thousands of dollars to prepare.

  Using surveys to predict public response to the issue, one of the

draft documents for the strategy admits that even if the department

of foreign affairs and international trade presents extremely

positive evidence about its own decisions in this case, the public

may not trust the defence.

  Among other things, the communications strategy suggests:

  - Targeting specific journalists to dispel myths about diplomats

living the high life.

  - Seizing opportunities to communicate good news stories about

spending on diplomacy.

  - Bringing attention to the opening of single-person diplomatic

missions to exhibit low-cost postings.

  - Hiring a writer and photographer to interview civil servants

abroad to show the challenges and living conditions in the chance a

national newspaper may pick it up and help temper public


  - Preparing a list of answers for ministers and department

bureaucrats in the event of media scrums. The list of responses

several times suggests the widely used "we cannot comment because

the case is before the courts."

  - Providing low-key responses to the media which entails the

department's media relations office answering questions

"superficially" using prepared responses and refusing access to

staff who are directly involved.

  The communications strategy also prepared an extensive

question-and-answer brief for the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd

Axworthy, in the event the opposition Reform Party raised the issue

in the House of Commons. Axworthy has not had the chance to use it



Copyright The Province (Vancouver) 1999 All Rights Reserved.