Nunavut ethics chief given until Oct. 31 to finish Schell review
Integrity Commissioner requests more time
Norman Pickell, the Nunavut Integrity Commissioner, must finish reviewing the conduct of South Baffin MLA Fred Schell by Oct. 31, 2012, well beyond the normal 90-day time period set out in the Integrity Act for completion of such reviews.
“The Integrity Act allows the Integrity Commissioner to request an extension if the Integrity Commissioner is of the opinion that additional time is needed to complete the review,” Pickell said Aug. 4 in a news release.
To that end, Pickell said he requested and received a time extension last month. The request was granted by the chair of the Nunavut legislative assembly’s management and services board, speaker Hunter Tootoo.
The management and services board is an internal body that Nunavut MLAs use to run the business affairs of the legislative assembly. It comprises the speaker, at least one cabinet minister and three other MLAs.
Pickell started his review of Schell’s conduct this past May 4, after receiving a request April 23 from Dan Vandermeulen, the deputy minister of the Executive department at the Government of Nunavut.
That means the 90-day period set out in the Integrity Act for completion of such reviews would have ended Aug. 2.
But Pickell said he wrote to the management and services board July 6 to ask for an extension until Oct. 31, 2012. The chairperson of the board granted that extension July 16.
After Pickell finishes the Schell review, he must deliver a report to the speaker.
The speaker must then give a copy of Pickell’s report to the member involved and table another copy at the legislative assembly as soon as possible — which effectively makes it a public document.
Since the Nunavut Legislative Assembly isn’t scheduled to reconvene until Oct. 23, Nunavut residents will likely wait at least until then to learn of Pickell’s findings and recommendations.
MLAs may accept or reject Pickell’s report in its entirety, but they may not amend it.
In October 2011, MLAs rejected a report that Pickell produced in response to previous complaints about Schell’s conduct made by Janet Slaughter, who then served as deputy minister of justice.
In that report, Pickell found that in 2009, Schell attempted to pressure a GN official into making a decision favourable to the interests of Polar Supplies Ltd. of Cape Dorset, a business that in 2009 Schell had yet to put into a blind trust.
Pickell recommended Schell pay a $500 fine, make apologies and receive a reprimand from MLAs.
Instead, MLAs nixed Pickell’s report and imposed a $1,000 fine. That’s because one of the allegations Pickell investigated at the time involved statements Schell made in the assembly.
But MLAs said no one outside the house has the right to interfere with the freedom of speech that members enjoy in the assembly and for that reason voted to reject Pickell’s October report into Schell’s conduct.
By then, MLAs had voted to give Schell a position in the Nunavut cabinet, where he served briefly as minister of human resources.
The current investigation into Schell’s conduct arose this past March 9, when Premier Eva Aariak stripped Schell of all his cabinet responsibilities.
“I don’t know what she’s [Aariak] got. I heard it’s something that came out of the justice department,” Schell told Nunatsiaq News this past March 11.
Schell no longer has any legal control over Polar Supplies Ltd. Since Jan. 1, 2010, his interest in that business has been held within a blind trust by Garth Wallbridge, a Yellowknife lawyer who acts as trustee.
Cheryl Constantineau of Cape Dorset works as the on-site manager of the business in Cape Dorset.
Schell still serves as a minister without portfolio in the Nunavut cabinet.