Schell quits Nunavut cabinet as MLAs endorse ethics report
“I want my children to learn from my mistakes”
South Baffin MLA Fred Schell quit his cabinet job Nov. 5, just before MLAs were to have voted on a motion to remove him from cabinet.
“The last eight months have been stressful to my family, to my colleagues, and myself,” Schell said.
“I love and admire my children very much. For that reason, I’m acknowledging my mistakes. I want my children to learn from my mistakes, and I want them to know that admitting mistakes, dealing with the consequences, is honourable,” Schell said.
“For that reason I accept the commissioners report. Today, effective immediately, I am resigning from my position as member of the executive council of Nunavut,” he said.
MLAs did vote to accept Integrity Commissioner Norman Pickell’s report on Schell’s conduct, tabled Oct. 30, which found Schell breached Nunavut’s Integrity Act six times.
This means Schell must pay a $10,000 fine, make a variety of apologies and meet with elders to discuss his conduct.
This is the second time that the legislative assembly’s ethics officer has found Schell to be in breach of the Integrity Act.
This past October, Pickell found that Schell, when he still served as a regular MLA in 2009, and before he had placed his business within a blind trust, had put himself into a conflict of interest by sending a threatening email to certain GN employees.
The email attempted to influence officials into making a decision favourable to Schell’s business interests, Pickell found in his first report on Schell.
MLAs then decided to slap Schell with a $1,000 fine, but around that time also voted to put him into cabinet.
“At the time I assigned Mr. Schell his portfolios, I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he would have to be ‘squeaky clean.’ He gave me his word he would do so,” Premier Aariak said.
“Mr. Schell was well warned. He chose to ignore those warnings. He continued to exercise the same poor judgment,” Aariak said.
This past March 11, Aariak stripped Schell of all ministerial portfolios after being told that he “acted in conflict of interest and abused his authority as minister.”
On April 23, Pickell received an affidavit and other documents from Dan Vandermuelen, the secretary to cabinet, alleging various breaches of the Integrity Act.
After reviewing the information and sorting out issues with lawyers, Pickell held a five-day closed-door hearing inside a meeting room at the legislative building in Iqaluit.
At that hearing, lawyers discovered that Schell had misled the commissioner by giving a false answer under oath to a question about his relationship with a certain GN employee who figured in one of the allegations.
Schell was brought back to the hearing, where he admitted to lying under oath.