Review board upholds Edmonton police officer's firing over workplace harassment
Alberta’s Law Enforcement Review Board has upheld the firing of an Edmonton city police officer convicted of professional misconduct for harassing a civilian coworker.
Last year, an internal disciplinary hearing found Const. Fiona Moffat guilty of seven offences under the Police Act for her months-long campaign of harassment against Romaine Fleck-Brezinski.
The hearing heard Moffat ignored Fleck-Brezinski, called her names and tried to turn other officers in the squad against her. More seriously, Moffat lied to police Professional Standards Branch investigators when confronted with the allegations.
Presiding officer Fred Kamins, who acted as judge in the case, found he had no option but to dismiss Moffat. Moffat appealed to the review board, which issued a decision Friday finding no significant errors in Kamins’ reasoning.
Moffat is the first Edmonton city police officer to be fired since Elvin Toy, who was dismissed in 2015 for looking at a lawyer’s notes during a hearing.
The story begins in 2013, when Moffat joined the EPS emergency communications unit. Fleck-Brezinski (who is Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski’s former sister-in-law), spent 11 years in the unit as a civilian 911 operator.
Fleck-Brezinski said there was initially no conflict between herself and Moffat. Eventually, though, Moffat and another group of officers began to shun her. Moffat herself would turn away whenever Fleck-Brezinski entered a room.
Fleck-Brezinski heard rumours Moffat was calling her names, including “b—-” and “c—.” The hearing also admitted as evidence a 2014 email in which Moffat said she was thinking about “punching her (Fleck-Brezinski) in the throat” over a Facebook post which Moffat believed breached privacy rules.
The nine months of harassment also included a confrontation over a set of interior window blinds and a home-cooked squad breakfast which Moffat eschewed in favour of McDonald’s.
Fleck-Brezinski filed a formal complaint in 2015. After an investigation, the police service charged Moffat with discreditable conduct and insubordination under the Police Act, which governs officer discipline in Alberta.
Investigators later added 11 additional counts of deceit, alleging Moffat was dishonest when answering a questionnaire about her feelings toward Fleck-Brezinski. Those questions included whether Moffat harboured any animosity toward Fleck-Brezinski, whether she’d ever encouraged other officers not to talk to her, and whether she’d ever called Fleck-Brezinski vulgar names.
Moffat answered “no” to those questions, which Kamins determined was false.
Moffat pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct and two counts of deceit but took the remaining counts to a hearing. Among other things, she said she was simply trying to cut Fleck-Brezinski out of her life after hearing claims Fleck-Brezinski had been spreading rumours.