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Politics Don Meredith faces additional Senate ethics probe over staff treatment

Senator Don Meredith, is pictured in an undated handout photo. A former Conservative senator faces a second ethics probe after an investigation into his office unearthed allegations of harassment and bullying.

HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Speaker of the Senate says the upper chamber's ethics officer has been asked to look into Sen. Don Meredith over the results of an investigation into how he treated his office staff.

Leo Housakos publicly confirmed in a short statement Thursday morning that Meredith has been told he will undergo an ethics probe.

Housakos says he and other top senators on the Senate's internal economy committee felt it was "imperative" the investigation results be referred to ethics officer Lyse Ricard.

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Depending on the outcome of the latest ethics review, Meredith could face penalties ranging from a forced public apology on the floor of the Senate — which is the punishment for former Conservative Pierre Hugues Boisvenu when he was found last year to have violated the Senate's ethics code — to suspension without pay.

Sources told The Canadian Press Wednesday night that six former staffers who spoke with outside investigators made allegations of workplace harassment against Meredith, saying he was a bully, rude and unprofessional towards his staff.

There are also allegations of psychological harassment and sometimes making irrational demands of his staff.

The allegations in the investigation report remain unproven and none of the staffers who took part, nor any whose stories are included in the report, wanted to file a formal complaint against Meredith, sources say.

The Senate first ordered the investigation into Meredith's office in February after top senators, including former Speaker Pierre Claude Nolin, witnessed what they felt was a troubling turnover of staff in Meredith's office. The Senate's internal economy committee called in outside investigators to speak with former staffers and Senate human resources officials as well as Meredith himself.

Six staffers who left Meredith's office in the last four years and spoke with investigators are not identified in the report and only took part on the condition that their names be protected.

The investigators' report has not been made public.

Two more staffers who left Meredith's office in the last four years declined to take part, but had their stories told second-hand to investigators by the six staffers who did speak, a Senate source with knowledge of the report told The Canadian Press Wednesday.

Meredith spoke with investigators in May and sources said he denied the allegations against him.

The former Conservative senator who now sits as an independent has not returned multiple requests for comment left for him on his Senate cell phone and at his Richmond Hill home Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Meredith is already under investigation by the Senate's ethics officer after published allegations last month that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl.

The woman told the Star that Meredith initially believed her to be 18, but she told him her true age within six weeks of the pair's first meeting at a Black History Month event at a church in Ottawa.

The Star report said the woman, who is now 18, had sexually explicit online chats with Meredith and that the relationship progressed to kissing and touching before she turned 18.

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She said the pair had intercourse twice after she turned 18 before the 50-year-old Meredith broke off the relationship earlier this year.

The Toronto-area senator appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper quit the Conservative caucus after the allegations were published.

He has since faced calls for his resignation from senators of both stripes. Through a lawyer retained after the Star story was published, Meredith stated he fully intends to respect the internal procedures of the Senate.

Two years prior to being named to the Senate, Meredith ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in a 2008 byelection in the riding of Toronto Centre.

His time in the upper chamber has not been without controversy.

In 2012, Meredith landed in trouble with members of the Conservatives' own caucus for appearing at a Persian cultural event at Ottawa City Hall co-organized by the Iranian embassy. The Prime Minister's Office distanced itself from Meredith after the event, saying Meredith wasn't there representing the government, which has taken a hard line against Iran.

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Last year, Meredith repaid the Senate for a trip he and his wife took to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The annual event draws some 3,000 politicians and diplomats, including the U.S. president.

Meredith, however, didn't have any spending problems reported in the auditor general's June report into Senate spending.

Meredith also landed in hot water for referring to himself as "Dr. Don Meredith" in press releases, despite the fact his doctorate came from a institution that didn't have degree-granting powers.

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