Schell denies unanimous consent on motion approving integrity report
Motion from Peter Taptuna to boot Schell from cabinet also denied unanimous consent
(Updated Nov. 2, 2:10 p.m.)
Premier Eva Aariak introduced a notice of motion in the Nunavut legislature Nov. 1 that MLAs accept the report of Nunavut’s ethics chief, Norman Pickell, that South Baffin MLA Fred Schell pay a $10,000 fine for breaching Nunavut’s Integrity Act six times.
But it could not proceed immediately because Schell denied unanimous consent for the motion.
Aariak’s motion was seconded by Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley.
Under the rules of the assembly, unanimous consent is required for a vote on a motion to proceed without delay. Denial of unanimous consent means the motion will wait at least two sitting days to be dealt with.
Also, deputy premier Peter Taptuna introduced a notice of a motion that would have Schell removed as a minister from Nunavut’s cabinet, where he now sits as minister without portfolio.
But Taptuna was denied unanimous consent to proceed immediately. Taptuna’s motion was seconded by Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove MLA Lorne Kusugak.
Also on Nov.1, Tagak Curley, MLA for Rankin Inlet North, criticized the time it took for senior officials to prepare materials on the ethics allegations against Schell.
Aariak stripped Schell of all his cabinet portfolios March 11, saying the MLA “acted in conflict of interest and abused his authority as minister.”
But Curley asked why Pickell did not get the required materials he needed to proceed with a review until April 23.
“This report of the Integrity Commissioner indicated he did not receive the cabinet secretary’s letter and affidavit and supporting documents until April 23,” Curley said, during question period.
The 21 allegations in the report were given to Pickell this past April 23 by Dan Vandermuelen, the secretary to cabinet and deputy minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.
One of the reasons it took more than 40 days to prepare this information was that Vandermuelen was on vacation for a significant portion of time, Curley said.
On page 42 of his report, the Integrity Commissioner gives his own explanation for the apparent five-week delay.
“Mr. Vandermeulen had asked the Deputy Minister of Justice to have witnesses interviewed and an affidavit prepared that he (Mr. Vandermeulen) could sign. That is the reason for the gap in time between March 11 and April 23, 2012,” Pickell wrote in his report.
Curley went on to ask Aariak why she did not sign her own name to a formal complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.
Aariak asked for further clarification of the question before responding.
“Twice, she announced on March 11 that she had received information that Mr. Schell had a conflict of interest,” Curley said.
After she stripped the cabinet minister of his portfolio, “why didn’t she sign the document after all, the premier is responsible for removing the minister from his job,” he said.
The premier can strip a minister’s portfolio, but cannot remove a minister, Aariak replied.
“The report of the Integrity Commissioner indicated that a subpoena had to be issued to one of her senior staff to appear at the Integrity Commissioner’s hearing, can the premier explain why she did not simply instruct her principal secretary to appear before the hearing on a voluntary basis,” Curley said.
But Aariak did not know her principal secretary, Paul Crowley, had received a subpoena to appear.
“I don’t even know what day it was. If it was during the weekend I wouldn’t know if the subpoena was issued, but the person who receives the subpoena is the only person who can respond to [it],” Aariak explained.
Tagak said that it’s “quite clear that the premier has not been served properly by her senior officials, by not appearing before the Integrity Commissioner’s hearing, until the principal secretary was served the subpoena, the premier’s principal secretary showed disrespect for the processes of the legislation itself, why does the premier tolerate this attitude on the part of her senior appointees?”
In his report, Pickell said commissioner’s counsel Sheila MacPherson, a lawyer who acted for the commission at the hearing, asked for three subpoenas.
But Pickell said he did not know why the subpoenas were needed.
He said two subpoenas were issued to Aariak’s principal secretary Paul Crowley, and to Cheryl Constantineau. A third subpoena was issued to the Government of Nunavut to produce emails contained within the old email accounts of Schell and Michael Constantineau, who had worked as Schell’s executive assistant.
That’s because, Pickell said, the email accounts for Schell and Mike Constantineau were blocked after Schell lost his cabinet portfolios.
When the issue of the Crowley subpoena was being dealt with, Aariak said she had no way of “knowing the rationale behind that particular time.”
“Perhaps there were some discussions going on between the officials, the lawyers and so on, I’m sorry I cannot provide you with that information,” she said.