Media Leaks of Police Services Board Closed Session Documents a Concern

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“We have a problem, to get to the point” – Board Secretary Hannam

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – The Thunder Bay Police Services Board is expressing concern over the apparent leak to media of information presented at Board Meetings.

Board Secretary John Hannam said this morning during the Open Session of the meeting, “We have a problem, to get to the point”.

This issue comes following a report to the Police Services Board from Principles Integrity that says in part, “Firstly, from a specific reference in a Globe and Mail article published on February 8, 2022 titled ‘Ontario coroner calls for new review of deaths of Indigenous people in Thunder Bay’, you conclude that the Board’s confidential information has once again been breached, noting that a series of other leaks of confidential information have occurred in the previous months:

“Family members of the individuals whose deaths were reinvestigated had raised concerns about the role of Chief Hauth, in particular, as the leader of the service that was the main subject of the Broken Trust report that found “systemic racism exists in [the Thunder Bay Police Service] at an institutional level.” They were worried specifically about her involvement in the content and framing of the final report.

“In a confidential letter dated Nov. 10, 2021, Chief Hauth informed the police board that she had stepped down from the committee. This came after a Globe and Mail article about a human-rights complaint against her, including allegations of racism and retaliation, and concerns from the committee of a potential conflict of interest.”

The Thunder Bay Police Service and the Thunder Bay Police Services Board have both faced a number of Human Rights Tribunal complaints, as well as investigations ongoing into Chief of Police Hauth and senior members of the Police Service by the Ontario Independent Police Commission.

Board member Georjann Morriseau who has filed a Human Rights Tribunal case against members of the board as well as Chief Hauth and the board’s legal advisor was not present on camera at this morning’s Police Services Board Meeting.

Principles Integrity says, in a memo from this morning’s meeting:

“Inappropriate disclosures of confidential information tend to destroy the mutual trust and respect that a deliberative body requires in order to carry out the democratic process of debate and decision making. Members of the Board should not be fearful that their questions and positions taken in the course of a discussion will be used for ulterior purposes, or even for an opposing purpose, by a colleague on the Board.

“As an aside, we bring the Board’s attention a common phrase which is used to acknowledge that applicable rules and conventions constrain involved parties from commenting on matters before the Courts. Typically the sentiment is expressed in this way: “No Comment – the matter is before the Courts”.

“Though the matters referenced in the Globe and Mail articles noted above are not matters strictly speaking ‘before the Courts’, they are nevertheless before tribunals which have the jurisdiction to make determinations on the matters brought before them. The convention, which in legislative bodies is sometimes reflected in a standing order, is known as the sub judice rule.

“Though the ‘no comment’ statement is often seen as a convenient mechanism to avoid speaking to the media, its real purpose is to avoid obstructing or influencing the proper processes of the judicial body. We make no determination on whether the usual ramifications of breaching the sub judice rule are applicable in the present circumstances (such as ‘contempt of court’ in a matter heard by a judge), however the intention of the rule is very much applicable. The purpose of the rule is to avoid prejudicing the parties to a matter and to avoid undue influence over the adjudication of the matter through the making of comments in the media.

“The inappropriate disclosure of confidential information coupled with attempts to influence media coverage of the matter is concerning. Given the emphasis the statutory Code of Conduct places on the obligation of Police Services Board Members to ‘refrain from engaging in conduct that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the board’ and to uphold the ‘letter and spirit of the Code of Conduct … in a manner that will inspire public confidence in the abilities and integrity of the board’, if a complaint were made, any Board Member who was found to have released confidential Board information and provided same to the media would risk adverse findings and a recommendation for the severest of available penalties.

“For the reasons listed in the three enumerated paragraphs above, such conduct would be recognized as compromising the Board’s ability to serve its most basic public interest objectives as the civilian oversight body for the Thunder Bay Police Service.”

Chantelle Bryson, the lawyer representing Georjann Morriseau and other police officers in their human rights tribunal cases tweeted her response to this morning’s meeting.

“Mr. Hannam is not a Board member but the secretary of the Board. He does not speak for the Board, give advice or direct action. Second, PSBs have no statutory authority to retain an IC [Integrity Commissioner]. ICs authorized under Municipal Act & PSBs are specifically excluded”.

Bryson added, “It has done nothing to investigate the allegations or to refer allegations of misconduct & criminal conduct to OCPC & OPP respectively. Hence, Board is under investigation.

“Board now deflecting & smearing Member Morriseau without investigation or communication with legal counsel. We are filing a second reprisal complaint against Mr. Hannam & the Board in this regard and in regard to their press statements & internal communications to Member Morriseau”.

“And, no they did not ask her about her personal safety today.”

“Public & City should ask Board why not refer serious allegations of Member Morriseau re actions of Chief and Walbourne now subject of OCPC allegations to OCPC & OPP. And why giving Chief & Walbourne free reign over evidence, complainants & witnesses while under criminal investigation”.

“We have had no communication from Board, its counsel, illegally appointed IC or City regarding our HRTO, OCPC, SG or OPP complaints. Board, City, Board counsel & illegal IC continue however to collaborate to keep Chief & Walbourne in place & smear Member Morriseau & officers.”

Update…

Developing…

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