Notley says NDP member denies ordering staffer to break rules on political work

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says a member of her caucus who is being accused of directing a civil servant to do party work on government time maintains he didn’t do it.

Notley was asked about backbencher Eric Rosendahl Thursday after former staffer Kathleen Westergaard came forward this week with allegations that he directed her to do NDP party work on taxpayer-funded time, then fired her last summer after she refused.

“We’ve reached out to Mr. Rosendahl. He has said that this is not true,” Notley said.

Westergaard said she has filed a complaint with the public interest commissioner, but Notley said her office and caucus have not been contacted.

“If there’s a complaint filed, absolutely, we will do an investigation,” she said.

Notley said she could not talk further about Westergaard’s case due to privacy rules, but said the reason Westergaard left was not linked to her allegations against Rosendahl.

“The end of her employment occurred for reasons completely unrelated to what you guys have been hearing about,” said Notley.

Westergaard said she was hired by Rosendahl shortly after the 2015 provincial election to run his West Yellowhead constituency office.

Constituency staffers are paid through the legislature Speaker’s office. While they can be members of a political party, their jobs at a constituency office are strictly non partisan. They are there to help all constituents regardless of political stripe.

In an interview, Westergaard said shortly after she was hired she was directed by Rosendahl to do party work.

She said it escalated and peaked last spring when he told her she would not work in the office at all, but would work nights and weekends focused on his re-election campaign.

“At the beginning Eric expected me do all this stuff. He demanded that I set up his riding association, recruit all the people, set up all the political events as well as doing my job inside the office,” said Westergaard.

“Then one day he walked in last spring and he said, ‘Well we’re going to change your hours. From now on you’re going to work nothing but evenings and weekends and you’re going to spend all your time focusing on getting me re-elected.”’

Westergaard also took screenshots of what she says are 2016 text messages with Rosendahl in which she reminds him she can’t send out correspondence on party business using the constituency letterhead or email address.

“We have been given very clear direction that party business cannot go through the office addresses,” she writes in one text.

“I get frustrated with this stuff!” the response reads. “If I am not there in the future you won’t be either!”

Westergaard said she stayed with the job because she is a single mom with two children and needed the work, but said when she put her foot down and refused to do the political work, she was fired without cause in June 2018.

Rosendahl could not be reached for comment Thursday, but when presented with Westergaard’s allegations in a Tuesday phone interview he said: “I’m not really going to comment on personnel matters.”

Rosendahl is a first-term member of the legislature and is running for the NDP nomination again in West Yellowhead.

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