Who am I?

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God

In the Spring of 2017, I was compelled to leak the contents of an internal email to the press, in an attempt to expose an entirely fabricated property tax fleecing of home owners in 3 major cities in the Province. That was the beginning of the end.

After so many years of reflection, I can honestly say I don't regret doing the right thing. I did save 70,000 homeowners a total of 4 million dollars they didn't actually owe in property taxes, and I'm happy about that, even today.

However, with hindsight and all that I've learned since, I can also safely say, I would never repeat that choice given the opportunity. It destroyed me. Not just financially, but emotionally and spiritually as well. The recovery is still on-going.

I'm writing this in the hopes that expressing what happened may heal something, somewhere. And if not me, then someone else who may need to hear it.

As an aside, my profile is on LinkedIn. There aren't many Joely's in New Brunswick, I shouldn't be too hard to find if any reader needs verification of my background. It's there.

I joined property assessment in the Spring of 2008. A year previous, my Dad passed away and we returned to NB from Nova Scotia so I could assist my mother with running her small business.

Service New Brunswick was hiring a bunch of Assessors and while I knew it was well below what I was qualified for, I did need extra income and felt a desire to give back, as a public servant. Like a lawyer who becomes a public defender rather than selling their soul to be a viper. At least, that's what I told myself and others when they questioned the decision, which they invariably did.

Luckily for me, I was hired and placed at the top of the payband given my qualifications. It took a few months to get the lay of the land and the job was relatively easy for me. Assessments represent market value, as determined by comparable sales. They were a lagging indicator as the mass appraisal model used past sales to strike assessments. We inspected sales and adjusted standardized cost models by factors to determine the valuations for the following tax year.

I will say, up until 2013, it actually worked really well and I was proud to be a part of the organization. I was consistently a top performer in terms of established KPI's and always completed my designated responsibilities for the areas I covered (~ 8000 homes). The only HR issue I had was from 2011 when my Mother passed away and I used all of my sick leave to cope with that shock, even though I definitely did not cope well.

Now back to the meat, I won't make this short.

Beginning in 2013, various high level decisions were made that began altering the valuation situation. Small at first, but culminating in what became the creation of a vast new valuation model to incorporate aerial photography data.

I was excited! In a past life, I worked with GIS systems and had a surveying engineering degree. I was totally onboard with the new direction. More data is always better for improving efficiency in assessment projections.

Unfortunately, my eagerness to help improve the model was summarily rejected by Head Office. In 2015, I questioned a new directive given to us that ended up in my first "strike" because my manager claimed I was being insubordinate. I chose not to fight, because I had no proof. It was a classic "he said, she said" and I was smart enough to know I wouldn't win that one by fighting it.

Unfortunately for them, that's also when the voice recorder on my phone started to be used. Unfortunately for me, that's when I should have quit, but I didn't. I needed the money.

In 2016, the new "model" was being rolled out. It was an absolute nightmare. Especially for me, being a numbers person, I could see what they were doing. They fully intended to use the rollout to inflate assessments by ~30% across the board in the regions affected. Originally it wasn't supposed to be deployed until 2018 to ensure proper testing but suddenly the "Modernization" was "Fast-tracked" to go out in 2017 instead.

I was stressed. I used all of my sick days that year. And because of that, I earned my second strike with HR. I couldn't bring myself to care. But I still did my job, and I did it well. By the end of 2016, I gave up trying to "make it right" and accepted that many homeowners were going to get a royal cuff come March 2017 when the bills and assessments went out. I simply resolved to roll with it and just do my best.

And I was right. March was an absolute frenzy. It was all over the news and the valuations were ridiculous. The valuations were easily reduced when compared to comparable sales, but as long as less than 30% requested a review of their assessment, the inflated numbers would hold.

Premier Gallant (Liberal) was being blamed for the Fast Track, even though the system was put in place under the previous government when current Premier Higgs was the Finance Minister. (He's also the "former" CFO of a little company called Irving, quelle surprise.)

In late March, I read a CBC article that appeared to be information from an inside source. In it, I felt a blame thrower being aimed directly at Assessors, and it infuriated me. If anyone in that organization had been struggling to do the right thing, it was the Assessors, in spite of the direction of an apparently incompetent Head Office throughout 2016.

A co-worker of mine (another female) brought to my attention an internal e-mail that, if seen by the media, could have the power to deflect the blame back where it belonged. It was a private conversation and it's what led to me doing just that.

I contacted Robert Jones at CBC and sent him a copy of the email. He confirmed on our phone call that he actually did have another inside source (as I suspected) and would it be ok if he confirmed the legitimacy of that email with them, and I said OK. I also requested that he keep my indentity from them and he agreed.

When the article came out, we were all immediately called in to a meeting. The rage was papable and the threats were clear. Whoever did this would pay and it would be in their best interests to come forward now.

I'd already determined prior to contacting Mr. Jones, that New Brunswick does NOT have whistleblower protections. I didn't make the decision lightly.

That morning, I was sitting on the edge of a table in the room where we were being given the hell and damnation "sermon", swinging my feet. It was done and there was no way they could prove it was me. The entire department had that email, everyone in the Province. Good luck rooting out the Leaker.

As someone who is not afraid to speak out, I'm also someone exceedingly well practised in keeping my mouth shut, like most rural New Brunswicker's are trained to do. I felt no fear that morning, none at all.

And then a miracle happened, just a couple of hours later. Premier Gallant made a clear and definitive statement that nobody was being given permission to try and find the Leaker. He extended the period for requesting a review from one month to six months and said an investigation would be conducted, led by a retired Judge. This did stop the "hunt" for about a month, but people being people, the whispers started and speculation ensued.

A couple of weeks later, Robert Jones contacted me again and said that his other source made him aware of another document located on the shared drive and he asked me if I could get it for him because his source was "being watched". My spidey-sense went off the hook and I declined. I told him, whoever his "source" was, they were hunting for me with that stunt. And I wasn't about to comply. Mr. Jones respected that decision and released the information anyway. Turns out it was something that pointed a finger at the Premier. It was purely a political distraction from the real fleecing underway.

The investigation started out by picking a retired Judge to lead it. We all got emails to anonymously provide any information/data that could help the panel sort it all out. I proceeded to write a detailed 15-page report with facts and numbers. Within 2 days of sending it, the Judge relieved himself of duty and the Auditor General was given given the responsibility of conducting the investigation.

I recieved an email from the Judge that any information provided would not be forwarded to the AG, and that was all it said. However, we also got an email from the AG, so I just attached the report I'd written and sent it to her instead. I also sent the document to Robert Jones, not to be released, but to provide him background as he covered the story.

A few weeks later, the AG emailed me and thanked me for the data I provided because it helped her to better understand the situation, and I was grateful for that. Yet, for whatever reason, I was not chosen to be interviewed by the Committee assigned, my female co-worker was sent instead, even though I was the Assessor with the most experience. Still, I trusted she was just as as competent as I was (if not more) to relay accurate information on all that had transpired.

Around July, all the whispers were referring to the Leaker as a "he". Being a "she", I was relieved and also a little disturbed at the ignorance in that assumption, but I counted my lucky stars and kept going.

I did hundreds and hundreds of reviews. Not all of them got reduced but a vast majority did (~70%). And of those reductions, the average was roughly 20-30%. And those were just my neighbourhoods in the Capital city, which didn't get hit nearly as hard as the two larger cities.

Suddenly, in late-July, my Manager started in on me again. I wasn't being offered the overtime hours to complete reviews even though it was clear this was available to everyone by the Director given the absolute deluge of requests that were sent in. And I was forced to question him on it and he claimed he just thought I wouldn't want to because I'd have to drive 45 minutes on weekends to do them.

In mid-August, the same thing happened, I had finished all the reviews assigned to me but I wasn't being given any from the other regions. Something was up. I felt a target forming on my back.

So I contacted Robert Jones again and asked him if he had revealed my identity to his other "source". He went back through his texts and discovered that in early July, he did mistakenly reveal my gender. I forgave him for that but then I knew why I was feeling a target. I was an obvious choice in the covert hunt. As was my co-worker.

At that point, I went to my Doctor and took stress leave. I'd already booked and paid for a week's vacation in October for my husband and I to take a cruise for our Anniversary (the first real vacation since our honeymoon). I maxed the stress leave and came back mid-October, hoping for the best.

While I was out, yet another Leaker provided information to a Conservative party member. He was from another region and within a few weeks he quit. He wrote about it publicly and that was that. All the buzz internally was that he was the original leaker. Of course, I knew better and so did Robert Jones' other "source". As such, I still had my guard up upon returning.

We had an annual 3-day conference called Assessor School. It was almost always fun. It was scheduled in November, the same time the AG's final report on the investigation was expected to come out. (Here is the news release about that, for those interested : https://www.agnb-vgnb.ca/content/agnb-vgnb/en/media/releases/renderer.2017.11.1498.html).

The week prior to Assessor School, Robert Jones had done a Facebook live session on the fiasco and the numbers revealed after 6 months of reviews.

The next morning, my Manager and Assistant Manager called me in to get my "take" on the Facebook live story from the night before. I was blunt and suggested they listen to it themselves. Why would I have any insight into it? They both went off on me. The door was open, everyone in the Office heard it. Sadly, I neglected to bring the voice recorder that day.

The following Monday (two days before Assessor School), I was summoned by HR and told I could bring Union representation with me, if I chose to. I contacted the Union and a rep joined me for what turned into nothing less than a two-hour cross examination. After which, I was told to take a week's paid leave and I was not permitted to attend Assessor School. I recorded the whole thing.

My first strike was about to roll over. They had mere days to get a third strike on me and have me fired. I knew that as well as they did.

This was when I finally hired a lawyer. I cashed out 7 ETH to pay for it.

Thankfully, I managed to dodge getting fired because someone in HR neglected to mail the form in time. I still got a strike, but it was technically just a second one. I got off on a technicality. It was the only time the Union was of any use to me.

At this point (Dec 2017) the markets were rallying, the 23 ETH I had left were cranking and I decided to apply for entrepreneurial leave as a way to get out of there, thinking the crypto funds could get me over the hump.

In January, I submitted the leave application. I also told my Manager in a private conversation that I was the original Leaker and requested his protection.

He was visibly surprised and then became so filled with glee that I was leaving, that he promised not to reveal my identity. He was acting like a kid in a candy store. He peppered me with all kinds of questions, which I answered. He then claimed that he needed to tell his superiors that the whistleblower came forward, had legal representation, and he would not reveal the name. I said OK.

Also that day, my female co-worker (the one who suggested in the first place I leak the email months befre) put in her notice and left within two weeks for a federal gov't job she'd applied for. I suspect Head Office assumed she was the Leaker, not me, but I never found out for sure.

I was left me alone to do my work until May, when I left.

When I left in May 2018, there was a six-month window that I could return in case things didn't work out. I did everything I could not to go back, but as we all know, the markets continued to deteriorate throughout 2018 and I sold all the way down to pay the bills. Until I was forced to tuck in my tail and go back.

The first months back were actually OK. They were actively adhering to the recommendations made in the AG report and I was mostly left alone. My Manager even began to praise my work and blow some sunshine up my butt. (Not that it mattered to me at that point)

I stayed positive, did my work and left work there when I went home.

I was never able to determine who Robert Jones other "source" was but I had it narrowed down to two people. I knew whoever it was, was not on the side of the taxpayer, they were solidly on the side of themselves and they worked at Head Office, obviously in a senior position, given the information they were able to give out. It wasn't an Assessor.

I started to feel safe. That's when I made my biggest mistake. I confessed to the person whose name was on that original email and I apologized for putting them in the spotlight. It was a long conversation in my car. I offered him a ride to the parking garage and, for whatever reason, spilled my guts. He was shocked, to say the least. He clearly thought it was the other female, who'd already been gone for awhile. Yet he did forgive me, or so he said.

Within a few weeks of that conversation, we had a new female hire. I found out after I quit that she was his neighbour. She actively began cozying up to me, "learning" from me, I was even assigned to train her. And I liked her even. But I sensed she had an agenda, so I just played along. I had no intention of whistle-blowing, ever again.

One day she hush-hush asked me if it was true that I was the original whistleblower. I remember staring at her for quite some time before I decided to confirm. I knew in that moment she was a predator. This was shortly before Covid, after which we all got sent home to work.

She never clued in that I was onto her but she was very clearly on the hunt for getting me to admit corners that may be cut or ways to circumvent "the system". I gave her nothing because I just wasn't that person. I told her once she should be careful with what she was doing (she was quite clearly cutting many corners) and that's when she really turned on me. Guilt is a powerful motivator when you're a bad actor. She knew who she was.

But she turned her gaze first to our Assistant Manager who then turned his gaze on me.

We were hired at the same time and I considered him a friend. I helped him do his job and he let me do mine. Until that changed. He got increasingly verbally abusive, to me and others. I was able to determine afterwards that she was filling his head with some real whoppers and he believed them. Two other co-workers were getting fabricated strikes, just like I got way back in 2015. It wasn't a coincidence. I was watching what happened to me happen to them.

Inmates in charge of the asylum.

One day, he blew up at me. Out of the blue because I questionned why he was delaying providing us building permits, which we used to go out and add to the assessment roll. It was a pretty vicious attack, even now it stings when I think about it.

I took it to my Manager who told me to submit a claim of harassment to HR. And I did.

It took three months before I got any kind of reply. Then they proceeded to interview everyone in the office and threatened each one not to discuss it. I was the last to be interviewed.

They chose (get this) a former Chief of Police to interview me. Yeah, for real. And guess what 90% of his questions were about? I'll tell you. All the details from 2017 and my role as whistleblower. Very little was concerned with the harassment issue I had with the Assistant Manager.

That told me everything I needed to know. Somebody, somewhere still wanted retribution on me for foiling the big fleece.

It took another three months before a decision was made and the harassment charge was dismissed. Apparently, someone came forward at the last minute and informed HR that I was suicidal. Based on that, my claims of harassment were dismissed.

I was called in yet again by HR to be quizzed about my "mental health" issues. I defended the accusation and they decided not to place me on extended leave.

At the same time, the Assistant Manager WAS suddenly on leave for an undisclosed reason and our new female Assessor (the snitch) was placed in the Acting role. At which point, I was offered to report directly to my Manager instead of her because they didn't want to upset me that I wasn't chosen for the promotion. (I had no intention of taking it anyway, but it should have been offered to me, given seniority and all that.)

Shortly after this, there was a restructuring and my Manager (the gleeful snake) was promoted to Regional Director, the other Assistant Manager returned suddenly from leave and the snitch was promoted to Acting Manager. (You can't make this up...)

I was given the choice then to report to an Assistant Manager from another Office, so I happily agreed. Anything to be out from under the heels of these fools. For months I was able to do my work in peace.

Then, in May of 2021, I was asked to a meeting with our new Executive Director. She used to be an Assessor and I'd known her from my early days. This came out of the blue and she informed me that if I wasn't happy, she would try and get me transferred to another department. I told her I was doing OK, I wasn't having any issues with my Assistant Manager or my workload.

I asked why she thought I was unhappy? She then scolded me for not being supportive of the new Acting Manager and, as a woman, she found that offensive, that I wouldn't be supportive of a female Manager. She said she knew I was unhappy because she was made aware of the "whisper campaign" I was conducting.

Let me make this very clear, there was no whisper campaign, not from me. I said nothing at all about the new Acting Manager. Not. One. Word. To anyone. I was present when others said things about her lack of qualifications and immediately excused myself from the conversations. It was none of my business. If she left me alone, I'd leave her alone. I knew how dangerous she was.

Apparently, that wasn't the story told to the Executive Director. As I learned that day. I could see from her demeanor that there would be no convincing her otherwise.

So, feeling defeated, I told her if she could find me a position in another department, I'd take it and leave Assessment.

By June I was informed she was unsuccessful. At this point, there were at least three cases I was aware of sitting with the Union regarding strikes on various co-workers in a very active campaign to muddy all the waters. The entire office was a toxic cesspool.

At this point the Acting Manager suddenly called me directly (from her personal phone, not her work phone) and asked me to look into a particular case and call the homeowner, because I was the most "seasoned Assessor". She also made me confirm I wasn't recording the call. I told her I wasn't, even though I was.

It was an unusual request since the property wasn't in my assigned area and yet she claimed I had worked on it the previous year and I already knew that I hadn't. But after the meetings with the Executive Director, I didn't think it was wise to resist, so I said OK and called the taxpayer.

After years and years of doing a job like this, you get pretty good at knowing when someone is lying to you. This man was not lying. He had all the details, the names of who he spoke to the year before (hers being one of them). As I dug into the system to verify all the relevant details, I noticed there were "change records" removed. And based on my experience, I knew the only people with permissions to remove change records were Head Office and Managers.

I sat looking at it, thoroughly stunned. She's the only who could have done that AND had the motivation to do so. By assigning the file to me, she was setting me up for a fall and I knew there was no dodging it, she'd covered her tracks well enough and I was sufficiently maligned by that point that any defence was pointless. Any decision I made on that file would be used against me. I had no recourse.

My demise was imminent and it was condoned by the woman above her, the one who somehow couldn't find a spot in another Department for me, even with all the letters after my name. There was no fight left in me.

The next day, I quit.

They wouldn't let me come in to gather my things from the office. When I returned the laptop, I was met outside and given my belongings. I was deleted and that was that.

I was told later that my name was never mentioned again. Nobody was ever told why I left, many thought I was fired until I corrected that with the few who were brave enough to ask me directly.

I was very surprised when my Employment Insurance claim went through with no questions asked, even though I quit. I began to suspect that had more to do with all the files and recordings I'd kept on a stick, just in case they decided to really come after me.

I decided then to try and put it all behind me but within a few months of being out of the toxic environment, I began to realize the extent of the damage I'd endured. I couldn't stop crying. I was an emotional wreck. When I tried to explain to friends and family, in search of support, all I got was shunned looks. The only person who stood with me was my husband and even he couldn't grasp the totality of it all. Maybe I was crazy? Maybe it was all my doing? Maybe...

By mid-2022, the EI ran out and I couldn't find a job fitting to my qualifications without references. So I took a minimum wage "work from home" job with a call centre. I spent 9 months doing that and it was surprisingly rewarding, I managed to build up confidence in my abilities again but it was also a lot harder than I expected. I was still too frayed.

And then last summer, the client canceled the contract and I was unemployed again. I went back on EI which was supposed to go until April. But last week I was told the claim had run out, no reason given.

What little I had built up in crypto reserves throughout 2019-2021 with fiat was again used to pay bills and survive these past couple of years. By Jan 2023, it was down to $400, mostly dust and dumb risks.

I've worked hard the past year to try and locate opportunites to grow that portfolio and the market has rewarded me with a 10x by mostly doing nothing. I'm somewhat proud of that achievement, it's a tough market with no fiat to put in. I had to earn it with P2E plays mostly.

I do have a small pension but I can't draw on that until December and even then, it won't be enough to provide for what we need to keep our home. My husband works and it's a good job but it's barely above minimum wage. He only has high school so he's not really cut out for more than that, and that really is OK. He's doing his part for us, he's a trooper and a gift.

We can survive until April, maybe May, if the market cooperates. But we made the hard decision last night to contact a realtor and sell. We'll move in with his parents for a while until things get sorted.

I know better than anyone that I'm still not sufficiently recovered (emotionally) to get another job. I need more time. I have far too much baggage to expect any organization to bring me into their fold. I get triggered around people far too easily and it really is best if I stay in my own corner and cast from a distance. This much I know.

I'll end the "book" here. It seems I've written way more paragraphs than I'd intended when I started earlier today. If you stuck with me this long, thank you. It's more than my family has done.

There's a million details left out of this story and I'm not telling it in search of any kind of vindication. I really want them to forget about me. And I want to forget about them. Lest we forget, they still have the power to ruin what little I have left, if they so choose. And I know better than anyone how much they enjoy abusing that power.

I only have one bit of advice based on all that xp I've earned: If you're reading this and recognize any of the tactics I've described within your own work environment, do yourself a favour and quit now. Don't delay the inevitable. Your mental and emotional health deserves the best of you. They don't.

Stay safe.

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