Meredith, who was booted from the Conservative caucus soon after the story appeared online, has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Senator Don Meredith who is under investigation for workplace sexual harassment is facing a new allegation that he had a sexual relationship with a teenager during the past two years. The Star's Kevin Donovan explains.
Sources told the Star that Meredith did not inform the Prime Minister’s Office or Senate leadership about the allegations before the story was published, with one source saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper was “deeply troubled” by it.
Housakos, who described his reaction to the news as “one of shock,” referred the matter to the Senate ethics officer, Lyse Ricard, Thursday morning for a preliminary review to determine whether she should launch an inquiry under the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
“The conduct described in this news report is in and of itself incompatible with the position of Senator. It also suggests that Senator Meredith may have improperly used his position of trust and authority as a Senator . . . This conduct, if proven, constitutes in my opinion a conduct unbecoming a Senator which calls for disciplinary sanctions to be imposed,” Housakos wrote in the letter, to which he attached a copy of the story by Star investigative reporter Kevin Donovan.
Housakos said the allegations would constitute a breach of Section 7.1 Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, which states:
“A Senator’s conduct shall uphold the highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of Senator (and) a Senator shall refrain from acting in a way that could reflect adversely on the position of Senator or the institution of the Senate.”
If Ricard decides to launch an inquiry, and that inquiry determines Meredith to have breached the Code, the Senate could then decide to impose any number of possible sanctions, ranging from inviting — or ordering — him to apologize, to suspending him from the Senate.
“I’ve expressed already my wish that this is given the highest priority,” Housakos said in the interview.
As CTV News first reported last week, the Senate is conducting an investigation of Meredith over “allegations of workplace and sexual harassment and bullying,” with four former female employees, as well as four other Senate staffers, alleging “he made sexual advances, used sexual innuendo, and was often rude and vindictive.”
Housakos would not comment on the details of those allegations Thursday, but confirmed the Senate began a “workplace assessment” in February after his predecessor, the late Pierre-Claude Nolin, noticed unusually high staff turnover in Meredith’s office and several people came forward with complaints about him.
“They did not want to file a formal complaint, but had expressed (concerns about) some behaviour that they thought was inappropriate,” Housakos said.
The Senate hired an independent firm to conduct the assessment along with Senate human resources and that they have been interviewing “a number of people that worked directly and indirectly with the senator’s office” and have “taken steps to interview all current and previous employees,” Housakos said.
“We’ve been impatiently waiting for the results,” said Housakos, who expects to receive the report by the first week of the July.
Many senators were angered by the allegations that once again shone a negative light on the embattled institution that is already grappling with the results of a damning audit into expenses and the ongoing criminal trial of suspended Sen. Mike Duffy.
“I only have one word: revolting,” Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton told reporters on her way into the Senate chamber on Thursday afternoon.
Others urged Meredith to resign immediately.
“I’m disgusted,” said Conservative Sen. Vern White, a former Mountie who also served as Ottawa police chief.
“Absolutely, he should step down,” White said.
“If he’s not good enough for the Conservative caucus, then he’s not good enough for the Senate of Canada,” said Senator Jim Munson, a member of the Senate Liberal caucus.
His caucus colleague Senator Mobina Jaffer commended the Senate leadership for quickly referring the allegation to the senate ethics office.
“They’ve done everything correct. Now we have to wait and have due process take place,” Jaffer said.
With files from Bruce Campion-Smith