Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yikes, he's back!

The Gargoyle: Greg Horton's public comments on Mike Duffy case deemed "pretty good" by top Mountie

Jordan Press
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nigel Wright was the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff who arranged a $90,000 cheque to help Senator Mike Duffy's expenses. (Christopher Pike/Postmedia Wire)

When the lead RCMP officer on the Mike Duffy investigation spoke publicly about the case, he caught his superiors by surprise.

Normally, RCMP investigators in an active criminal investigation would refer reporters’ questions to the force’s media relations department.

But on a morning in late April 2014, Sgt. Greg Horton stopped to talk with a reporter about why the RCMP chose not to charge Nigel Wright as part of the Duffy affair. Emails obtained by the Citizen under the access to information law shed some light on what happened behind the scenes after Horton’s first — and so far only — public comments about the Duffy case, and why his words didn’t land him in any trouble.

What happened publicly

Horton spoke briefly as he left the Ottawa courthouse in late April, telling Global News the decision to not charge Wright was well-documented and the reasons would become public, such as through court disclosures.

“Once the whole investigative process follows its path, then those reasons will be made public,” Horton was reported as saying. “Nothing will be hidden. It will all be publicly disclosed at some point.”

On the evening of April 28, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus faxed RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson a letter asking for a full explanation of the reasoning not to charge Wright.

On April 29, the NDP publicly released the letter.

What happened behind the scenes

At 11:38 a.m. on April 29, the RCMP communications team flagged the NDP release and emailed it to Paulson and other senior officers. One of those who received the notice was Horton’s superior, assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud. Apparently, Michaud didn’t know Horton had spoken to the media.

“I just found this out!!!” Michaud wrote at 11:54 a.m. “I am checking into the circumstances in which he made comments…I will get back to you with details.”

At 12:03 p.m., Paulson wrote back. Coincidentally, he had just finished writing a response to Angus. He wanted Michaud’s input. Paulson also sent a copy of the letter to deputy commissioner Mike Cabana for input, and copied his chief of staff, Supt. Steven Dunn, on the email.

At 12:10 p.m., Michaud wrote back to see the original letter from Angus. Michaud said this about Horton: “I will speak with him tomorrow! He made those comments as he was leaving the courthouse.”

Three minutes later, Paulson wrote to Dunn: “Fyi – I sent one” — a reference to the response to Angus — “to your name sake at ps” — a reference to Public Safety Canada.

Then Paulson turned back to Horton.

“I looked at Horton’s comments (and) they weren’t so bad. Pretty good actually,” Paulson wrote to Michaud and Cabana at 12:19 p.m.

“If you guys agree, we’ll get a version of this response of mine out and see what happens. I’m standing by to hear from you.”

What changed in Paulson’s letter to Angus

The final letter Paulson sent to Angus, which was released publicly, had some changes from his first draft.

– In a paragraph outlining the RCMP work “without fear, favour, or affection,” Paulson originally added this to the end: “Not always an easy task, I can tell you. I will not therefore answer the specific questions you had for me in your letter.”

– In a paragraph outlining how the RCMP decide to lay charges, Paulson wrote to Angus that investigators needed to have a “reasonable” belief that someone committed a criminal offence. The original obtained by the Citizen reads “reasonable and probable.”

jpress@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/jpress

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