Thursday, September 04, 2008

 

No public hearing for Paul Battershill

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Police complaints commissioner rejects closer scrutiny

Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
Published: Thursday, September 04, 2008

There will not be a public hearing into the conduct of former Victoria police chief Paul Battershill, B.C.'s police watchdog ruled today.

Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld said there were "insufficient grounds to conclude that a public hearing is necessary in the public interest." He called an RCMP investigation into Battershill's conduct "exemplary" and comprehensive on its own, even though that report has not been made public.

Nonetheless, Ryneveld said an RCMP investigation into Battershill's conduct concluded he committed discreditable conduct by having a personal relationship with someone working for the police department.

Last month, the Times Colonist learned Victoria labour laywer Marli Rusen was being investigated by the Law Society of B.C. after her former employer, national Law Firm Heenan Blaikie, filed a conflict of interest complaint alleging she had an affair with Battershill while providing him legal advice he used to negotiate severance packages for people under his command. Both Battershill and Rusen were married at the time.

Battershill admitted the affair to RCMP investigators. The RCMP concluded the relationship "gave rise to an appearance of improper favouritism in the allocation of public monies," according to a decision paper released by Ryneveld today. The RCMP recommended Battershill be suspended.

Ryneveld refused to release the allegations made against Battershill that were not substantiated by the RCMP, only to say they involved specific allegations of oppressive conduct that, if proved, would likely have discredited the reputation of the police force.

Ryneveld said he does have the power to call a public hearing when it is in the public interest and an officer's resignation does not bar me from ordering a public hearing.

Battershill resigned as chief Aug. 13, after the Victoria Police Board said it had suffered a "loss of confidence" in his leadership, but refused to say what allegations were made against him. He resigned just days before a scheduled disciplinary hearing.

Civil rights groups have criticized the lack of an explanation and slammed the police complaints process, and Victoria mayor Alan Lowe, for lacking transparency and accountability in the case.

Ryneveld defended his actions, saying he's aware some people will be dissatisfied with his decision not to call a public hearing but that he felt the complaint process worked as designed.

After Battershill's resignation, Lowe, who is also board chair, would only say a six-month RCMP investigation had failed to turn up any criminal or financial wrongdoing, although Ryneveld was quick to add Battershill had never been accused of either of those things.

Battershill, whose salary was $167,000 a year, was under contract as chief until December 2008. As part of his resignation, the board paid $15,000 toward his legal fees but did not give him any severance money. Both sides signed a non-disclosure agreement that forbids them from talking about the allegations.

That closed the matter for the police board. If the public wanted more information into the allegations against Battershill, they would have to get it from Ryneveld, Lowe had said.

Battershill, who was hired as chief in 1999 and also briefly held the job of city manager in 2006, was put on paid leave last October after senior officers in the police department brought forward complaints about him to the police board.

The board convened an emergency meeting Oct. 10, 2007, in which senior members of the department - inspectors and key civilian staff - were called before the board to talk about the chief's leadership. Battershill was then placed on administrative leave, and suspended with pay Nov. 6.

As a result of Battershill's affair, Heenan Blaikie said it has launched a review of Rusen's billing to the City of Victoria and the Victoria Police Department. Rusen denied the affair to Heenan Blaikie, but left the law firm.

Rusen, who clerked with the B.C. Supreme Court and federal Department of Justice in Vancouver, specialized in labour relations, employment law, sexual harassment cases and mediation. A brief biography on the Lancaster House labour law website said she also helped companies diagnose, prevent and eliminate workplace conflict.

As part of her work at the police department, Rusen helped draft a settlement agreement for Battershill's former executive assistant, Jo-Anne Zimmerman, Lowe said publicly earlier this year.

The RCMP investigation did focus on a particular severance package, Ryneveld said, although he would not say which one. Mounties concluded the matter required no further action.

{Snip} ...


rfshaw@tc.canwest.com

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=0fcba49e-d109-4cb6-b4e1-56f62bd2c2b6

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Comments:
Boy did Rob Shaw miss the real story !
 
Whitewash, pure and simple.

The man can't get away with a small indiscretion (if thats what they want to call it) but a sitting Premier can blubber his way into keeping his office over a DUI. Then has the gall to GIVE away our railway. This whitewash stinks.
 
It doesn't even sound like an indiscretion if he was separated, this was a political assassination, plain and simple.
 
Mr. Shaw's article looks like it was written with file material and that he barely read the actual report from today. Strange.
 
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