Saturday, September 06, 2008

 

Dirk Ryneveld, Gerald Hartwig, Paul Battershill, Marli Rusen, and the people of British Columbia

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"Public curiosity" is the phrase Dirk Ryneveld, QC, applies to citizens of B.C. who are concerned by the treatment of Paul Battershill. I think it is a good deal more than that.

I think citizens are doing their proper homework when they ask: what was it that destroyed the career of this exemplary public figure? "Allegations", says Ryneveld in his published decision not to order a public hearing [See www.opcc.bc.ca]. "Allegations ... by senior police officers against their Chief Constable ... none of the officers being prepared to lodge a formal Police Act complaint."

The hell you say. So, in other words, there was no formal complaint. None. Just allegations.

Chief Battershill was in Halifax giving a speech to a police conference on the topic of civilian oversight for police when this all went down. He was that kind of cop: cerebral, well-informed, public-spirited. But before he could get back to Victoria, Battershill had already been placed on "administrative leave". Because, by then, Ryneveld admits that "...within days, my staff and I spoke to a number of Victoria Police Department (VicPD) officers and civilian employees ..."
[P.1-2, Chief Constable Paul Battershill Investigation: Decision whether to order a Public Hearing. - Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld QC]

Ryneveld, (who, we've been told, has a very 'close' relationship with some police officers), the Police Complaint Commissioner, says he is aware of the public's "understandable confusion about whether there was any relationship between that Police Board action against Chief Battershill and the apparent leak of a letter written by a local lawyer alleging that another lawyer was in a conflict of interest arising from a freedom of information request the first lawyer made to the Victoria Police Department." Really?

A commentor to this web-site September 4, 2008 wrote: "Our senior officers have told us they weren't involved in this so somebody really is lying. The Chief has moved to Kelowna and is doing really well, officers stop by to see him quite often. Morale [in VicPD] will be really bad after this, lying to us isn't going to go over okay. More are going to quit unless they make a major change in senior management. A new mayor would be good too."

Another comment on Sept. 4 says: "VicPD is different because we have gone from one of the lowest rates of officers quitting to one of the highest rates, all in the past 6 months. Great new LEADERSHIP!" Think about that, Mr Ryneveld.

Another comment, September 4, says: "It still isn't clear what's happened. It sounds like only one thing was found and it was a reprimand relating to a perception. The palace coup seems obvious now and there are 'private persons of considerable influence only too anxious to make unfortunate allegations'. The 'system' doesn't seem to have worked at all really ..."

Iain Hunter, in the Victoria Times Colonist, wrote on September 6, 2008: " ... I share the disappointment of many that we haven't been given a full accounting of what the former chief was alleged to have done. We don't know what got, apparently, many senior people in his department to come down so hard on him before the Victoria Police Board and make specific allegations that an RCMP investigation was unable to substantiate. But you, in your report, confidently announce that they touched on "matters of integrity and oppressive conduct."

What kind of satisfaction can anyone get, asks Hunter, from a process based on unsubstantiated allegations of the kind Battershill said from the outset are typically made when a chief nears the end of his term.

Citizens often hurl accusations at police. Police, after all, are the visible symbols of authority when things go wrong. We consider it our right in a free society. But this time, Mr Ryneveld, it's different. This time, we're watching an outstanding police officer who it seems, may have been set up when he wasn't looking, by people still unwilling to go on the record, and without even the balancing component of a single kind word. The omission is right there, Mr Ryneveld, plain for all to see.

Not once does your report commend Paul Battershill for his 9 years of exemplary service to the capital city of British Columbia. For his work on the Oppal Commission. For management competence such that he was able to act as Interim City Manager. And for much more. Not a word. In fact, this whole affair could be mistaken for "Let's get Battershill Time." Why was that?

Commissioner Ryneveld writes that "[a]fter hearing all the concerns and allegations made by those who spoke to me over a two week period, I determined that several of the allegations I heard met the threshold for an investigation. To that end, I drafted seven terms of reference for a Police Act investigation, many of which had more than one element requiring investigation."

Did he speak to the Chief Constable? What was Chief Battershill's view of the situation you describe as two weeks of allegations? We'd like to know that. I'd like to know what the Police Union said, too. We've heard nothing from them. You'd think the Police Union would have been involved.

I think Commissioner Ryneveld may be speaking nonsense when he says that the RCMP Superintendent "also correctly understood that where questions arise pitting one person's word or version of events against another (as was often the case in this investigation), the role of the investigator is to make a finding that best corresponds with the whole of the evidence..." To make a finding. Gotcha.

Ryneveld tells us that he had only the authority to decide upon an investigation and a public inquiry ... not to decide questions arising out of the management environment ... in other words, not questions arising out of personnel matters. He says "I wanted to ensure that the Police Act process not be used to promote personal or political agendas or recriminations about a chief constable's personality or management style ... [which are] not proper matters for police investigations." And yet, and yet, that's exactly where we are today...that's exactly what it did.

From the public's point of view it's entirely about personnel matters ... even including, in my view, Marli Rusen as an outside contractor working for the Chief Constable, reporting to the Police Board. That was an employee matter ... a "personnel matter". Which, in my view, passed the ultimate test of integrity when the RCMP investigations asked: did the actions of Battershill or Rusen benefit either of them? Was there a criminal breach of trust?

And they found that the answer was No, neither Battershill nor Rusen personally benefited; and it was not a criminal breach of trust. It was a personnel matter with no adverse effect upon work accomplished. Oh, you say, it was a "perception". Or, more specifically, a "possible perception". Really.

Well, Dirk Ryneveld QC, let me tell you that my perception of the whole 12 pages of your Decision is that its tone is pejorative.

For example, consider what's left out. No weight whatever is given to Battershill's good service. You go round and round arguing about who has the right to sit in judgment. But it would seem to me that at least one paragraph somewhere in those 12 pages should have begun with, "Given his exemplary service for 9 years with Victoria Police Department, we take this opportunity to express our thanks to Paul Battershill ... " But there's nothing. No acknowledgement. No thank you for services rendered. No severence package. No good wishes for his future.

I am not the only citizen who is left with a feeling that a good cop has been censured. For what, we do not know.

One paragraph of the report did give me high hopes.

VIII. Closing Comments [p.11] "... independence allows the Commissioner to act in a fashion that is objective and independent not only of the government but also of certain private persons of influence who have their own agendas and who unfortunately seem only too ready to make unfortunate allegations and accusations."

This is a very significant area of concern. Thank you for mentioning it, because citizens recognize those images: of lawyers, of Gerald Hartwig, and of a break-in at Marli Rusen's law office. But no, the Police Complaint Commissioner makes not the slightest gesture toward explaining those elements or toward dismissing their "unfortunate allegations and accusations". Which means that those folks are still riding high in B.C.'s political society, continuing with "their own agendas" and "only too ready to make unfortunate allegations and accusations." Surely the Police Complaints Commissioner owes the citizens more.


The RCMP (IV. Investigative Findings) [p.4], found that only one aspect of one allegation had been established ... that is, the personal friendship between the Chief Constable and a lawyer ... which proved precisely nothing.

The RCMP Final Investigative Report says, the "relationship would give rise to a reasonable perception of discredit to the reputation of the police department ... or improper favouritism ... adversely affec[ting] [Battershill's] ability to select, assess, scrutinize and give instructions ... in the best interests of [VicPD and Victoria Police Board] ... and therefore, that Battershill's conduct could [please note: could. - BC Mary.] discredit the reputation of the VicPD. But did it? We don't think so.

Did Battershill's conduct discredit the reputation of VicPD. No. It was a perception. Or, more accurately, a possible perception.

Ryneveld concluded that since a mere allegation is often enough to unfairly damage reputation, "it would be improper and unfair to [Battershill] for me to publicize allegations that were found to be unsubstantiated ... " But dammit, Mr Ryneveld, you just did. The allegations, the innuendo has been flying for 10 months now. In fact, the report, arguably, makes it worse.

Mayor Lowe's announcement of August 13, 2008 led British Columbians to believe that the RCMP had been investigating "criminal acts, involvement with criminal activities, or financial impropriety." Dirk Ryneveld QC, Police Complaint Commissioner, must surely have known that neither the allegations nor the RCMP investigation included such topics. But neither he nor Mayor Lowe leapt to correct that mistaken impression. How fair is that?

I, for one, am not in favour of a public inquiry. I think it would put Paul Battershill through another terrible ordeal.

However, the people of B.C. have been hit two ways. Wehave suffered a loss of confidence. And we have had to pay the costs of these RCMP investigations unleashed upon a serving Police Chief (1,900 hours interviewing 37 individuals plus 7 support staff who spent 1,300 hours helping those investigators examine and catalogue nearly 900 documents).

I think that Paul Battershill must be given a chance to speak directly to the people, giving his understanding of the situation.

And from the Police Complaint Commissioner, I'd like a few more details, such as who those two lawyers were, and what they were doing - and let the public decide what "their" political agenda may have been. And about Gerald Hartwig's part in these troubles. Also about that break-in at the Heenan Blaikie office of Marli Rusen. It does not sit right with me that two such brilliant people as Battershill and Rusen are left with their careers in ruins ... while the questions of the community they served are brushed aside as almost idle "public curiosity".

It does not paint a picture of fairness or justice. Frankly, it leaves us wondering if it's something else.

Any reasonable citizen might begin to ask if this attack upon Paul Battershill has something to do with an attempt to discredit a man who diligently led the lengthy investigation into drugs trafficking, which then led to the raids on the B.C. Legislature, and as a result, is someone who will undoubtedly be a Crown witnesses when the BC Rail Case comes to trial.

I think we need a lot more ANSWERS ...


- BC Mary, with help from Friends and commentors to The Legislature Raids.

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Exactly where does Paul Battershill fit into the upcoming trial which could embarrass the Campbell government? The following 2004 Tyee article explains a lot:

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RAIDS: HOW BIG A SCANDAL?

David Basi and Bob Virk were key players in B.C.'s Liberal government with strong ties to the Prime Minister. The RCMP raid of their offices as part of a probe into drugs and organized crime will likely cloud the next elections, federal and provincial.

By Barbara McLintock
TheTyee.ca - December 30, 2004

It started out like so many relatively routine tips that police officers pick up - some unsubstantiated information about trafficking in cocaine and marijuana, deemed to be worthy of further investigation by the Victoria Police Department and the RCMP Drug Section for the Greater Victoria region. But as the officers conducted their probe, the tentacles spread further and further, potentially involving organized crime and police corruption. Then this weekend they reached right inside the B.C. Legislative Buildings - a place where police officers rarely venture except to keep the peace at demonstrations and arrest the odd errant protester.

By late afternoon Sunday [Dec 28/03], two high level Liberal government officials, their offices raided by police, were gone from their jobs. David Basi, ministerial assistant to Finance Minister Gary Collins, was fired and Bob Virk, the ministerial assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid was suspended with pay.

Ties to Paul Martin's campaign

The sight of uniformed sergeants (the operation was considered too sensitive for any officers of lower rank to participate) toting dozens of cardboard cartons containing file folders and documents down the steps at the legislature has given the Gordon Campbell government a political problem unlike any they have experienced in their past 31 months in the office.

{Snip} ...

Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill confirmed several other locations were also raided by police officers over the weekend. They included the homes of some of those involved, an accounting firm, and a government relations firm later identified as Pilothouse Public Affairs. The company was begun by former Vancouver Province columnist Brian Kieran, but two of its key officials - Erik Bornman and Jamie Elmhirst -- also have strong ties to the Martin camp.

Also visited by investigating officers, although not formally raided, was Mark Marissen, of Burrard Communications, who was director of the Martin campaign in B.C. - and who's also the husband of Deputy Premier Christy Clark.

{Snip} ...


To read the full story, type "Raids: How big a scandal?" into the Search Box, top left on this page.

Or go to:
http://thetyee.ca/News/2004/12/30/Raids_How_Big_a_Scandal/

Paul Battershill's testimony at the trial of Basi, Virk, Basi will be critical. Under oath, he will be telling us why that historic raid had to happen. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
And the most sickening part of this report is that the allegations were uncoroberated. It was only certain persons words against Battershill. It was all hearsay.

Then Lowe has the gall to not let the board have all the evidence.

Best ambush and whitewash I've seen in a long time.
 
An amazing analysis of this debacle ! Bravo Mary.
 
Our union feels that he was an excellent Chief, very fair, communicated well, supportive and professional. Its only a few senior officers who wanted to do him in. Most of the senior officers are saying they quite liked working for him. Everybody is too scared to speak up, for fear of vicious rerisals.
 
We were upset he didn't fight this but he told members he didn't want other people hurt by the fight.
 
I haven't read every bit of news coverage of this situation, but do you know if any mainstream media has stressed the fact that none of the instigators were willing to lodge a formal Police Act complaint? Surely a formal complaint should be required for such an investigation to proceed, and surely the public is, on that basis alone, entitled to a full picture that casts lifelong shadows on more people than Battershill and Rusen. If Shakespeare was living in British Columbia today he'd have a masterpiece underway.
 
The Chief supported us when there were obstruction allegations over Mayor Clement's actions in relation to his son. I hope that isn't one of the reasons for all of this.
 
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Can't find the words to express how much I appreciate these comments.

They add to our understanding and, in that way, encourage us all to keep watching this situation closely.

Thank you. And best wishes.

Mary.

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Mr. Baldrey wrote an article on this situation in our Surrey NOW paper yesterday.
 
"Since joining Heenan Blaikie in 2005, Mr. Plant has been appointed senior advisor to the Government of British Columbia ......."

Whereas.....

Public Eye Online:
Ken Dobell has been appointed to a government relations firm of Hill and Knowlton Canada Ltd.
 
Has Mr. Plant used his former position as a member of Cabinet, and as an MLA, to gain access to the BC Liberal government without somehow violating any laws, such as the ones that caught Graham Bruce acting as a lobbyist?

There is a requirement of a two year gap in time, between leaving office and accessing potential customers.
 
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Anonymous 7:30,

No, I haven't heard anything about Geoff Plant except that he had become a partner in a Vancouver law firm.

But I have a feeling that YOU know something. Are you going to tell us?

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Heenan Blaikie, now where have I seen that name lately? Are they the same guys who fired a lawyer who was working with the Victoria/Esquimalt Police Department Chief? Wasn't Mr. Plant part of the BC Liberals when the BC Rail "consolation prize" neccessitated then need for Chief Battershill and the RCMP to raid the legislature?
 
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Good work, Anon 6:58! I had totally missed that little detail about Geoff Plant. Many thanks!

Yes indeed, G.P. was B.C. Attorney-General throughout the negotiations to sell off B.C. Rail.

He was Attorney-General during the time that Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill was guiding the investigations into drugs trafficking which ended up in the raids on the B.C. Legislature.

Is the Heenan Blaikie branch office in Victoria so large that all partners wouldn't be aware of significant assignments? (Ms Rusen was also a partner in Heenan Blaikie, just like Plant.)

Like most British Columbians, I'd really like to know what Geoff Plant knows about all these matters.

E.g., it was Ms Rusen's office which was broken into, remember?

Well, our chances of getting more information may improve next Wednesday, Sept. 17, when the familiar old gang gets back into Supreme Court wrangling about why the government won't let the Crown Prosecutor have all the documents needed.

Will you be there? It would help a lot, I think, if the courtroom performers knew they were being watched.

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