After avoiding questions for several days, Premier Shawn Graham came to the defence of NB Liquor's president, who is at the centre of a conflict-of-interest hearing.
'It's my understanding that process was undertaken, and I dealt with this individual similar to all other deputy ministers that were appointed in these important positions.' — Premier Shawn Graham
Dana Clendenning is accused of carrying on private business dealings after he was appointed to the liquor corporation's top position, and is facing a hearing in June under the province's conflict-of- interest law.
The Opposition Progressive Conservatives have been demanding the suspension of Clendenning because of a complaint filed against him under the Conflict of Interest Act. Graham told CBC News on Friday afternoon that Clendenning has disclosed his business interests as the law requires.
Graham said when Clendenning was appointed, he filed a disclosure of his business holdings as the law requires of all Crown corporation presidents and departmental deputy ministers.
"It's my understanding that process was undertaken, and I dealt with this individual similar to all other deputy ministers that were appointed in these important positions," Graham said.
Until Friday, Graham had kept his distance from the developing controversy by saying he cannot comment on a case that will be heading before a judge.
Graham also said there was nothing questionable about his visit to Barry O'Donnell's Bathurst call centre in 2005, or about the lunch he had with O'Donnell and Clendenning the same year.
O'Donnell is the Fredericton businessman now making conflict-of-interest accusations against the NB Liquor president, Graham's close ally.
At the time, O'Donnell said he was paying Clendenning $2,500 a month to lobby the Liberals for future job-creation grants. Graham pointed out he was Opposition leader at the time.
"I do recall I think the two were in business together, and I was meeting with many businesses around the province, and that company was no different than any other," Graham said.
O'Donnell never got any grants after Graham became premier and appointed Clendenning as the president and chief executive officer of NB Liquor.
Clendenning hasn't commented on the controversy.