The Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature has issued a public apology for comments that an investigation deemed as harassing.
Chris Collins stood in front of the legislature building with his wife Monday morning, and spoke for the first time since news of the harassment allegations emerged four months ago.
Collins said while most of the allegations were not founded, a few related to comments he made that were perceived as inappropriate.
“The few related to incidents in which I spoke in a manner in which I was perceived to be inappropriate by the complainant. For that, I am very apologetic,” he said.
“I understand that while I may perceive my words to have been humorous or inoffensive, others may have a very different, yet legitimate perspective. It is important that those perspectives be heard, understood and legitimized, through a fair and thorough investigation.”
Collins thanked his wife, friends and the constituents of his Moncton Centre riding for their support.
Premier Brian Gallant announced in early April that Collins was being suspended from the Liberal caucus, saying the premier’s office had been made aware of potential allegations of harassment in February, but the complainant didn’t come forward with allegations until two months later.
In May, Collins announced he would sit as an Independent while pursuing a case of libel and slander against the provincial government.
Collins declined to answer any questions Monday, and would not provide any more details about the allegations or the findings of the investigation.
“Out of respect for the privacy for those involved, exact details of this matter must remain undisclosed, as the entire process should have been in the first place,” he said.
Collins did not say if he’ll run in the provincial election on Sept. 24, except to say that the decision will not be made by Gallant.
The province’s Legislature Administration Committee voted along party lines Friday to sanction Collins after concluding, based on a third-party investigation, that harassment allegations were founded in part.
It asked for a written apology to the complainant and for Collins to take anti-harassment and sensitivity training.
First elected to the legislature in a 2007 byelection, Collins had previously served three years as a Moncton city councillor. He was briefly minister of local government under former Liberal premier Shawn Graham, and was elected Speaker after the Liberals returned to power in September 2014 under Gallant.