Summing up the Brian Skakun case
A decision is expected Tuesday in the long-running court case against Prince George city councillor Brian Skakun.
He admitted he leaked to the CBC an investigative report prepared by labour lawyer Kitty Heller that looked into workplace conflict at the Prince George RCMP detachment.
Skakun received the report, marked “personal and confidential,” in a closed city council meeting in May 2008.
The Heller report examined harassment complaints made by three city employees who worked at the detachment: Ken Corrigan, Linda Thompson and Sheri McLean-Smith.
Some of the complaints were later substantiated by Mounties in a separate investigation and then-Supt. Dahl Chambers was ordered to write apology letters. Other complaints were dismissed as trivial by Heller.
Heller also found that another civilian employee, Ann Bailey, was in a conflict of interest due to her common-law relationship with Chambers.
City administrators, who hired Heller to complete the report, testified they decided not to take action because Bailey did not report to Chambers, and to remove her from her position based on a familial relationship would have violated her human rights.
Excerpts from the Heller report first showed up in local media in April 2008, but the matter really gained traction in August 2008 when Chambers’ forced apologies were made public at the conclusion of the RCMP’s code of conduct investigation.
The Heller report then showed up on the CBC website on Aug. 19, 2008.
Skakun is accused of a single count of unauthorized disclosure of personal information under B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
If convicted, he faces a maximum $2,000 fine.
Notably, the act stipulates that a charge must be sworn within a year of the alleged offence date. He was formally charged on Aug. 14, 2009, so the Crown must prove that he disclosed the report after Aug. 14, 2008.
The trial began in Prince George provincial court in October 2010, proceeded in fits and starts, and concluded this past March. The trial heard from current and former elected officials, as well as senior city administrators.
At the close of trial, Judge Ken Ball asked lawyers for the Crown and defence to submit final arguments in writing.
The Free Press applied to the court for access to the final arguments. Summarized below are the main themes from the two lawyers’ respective arguments.