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Floyd Roland, seen testifying before adjudicator Ted Hughes's hearings in Yellowknife earlier this month, was found to have been acting 'in good faith' when he did not immediately disclose his affair with a legislature clerk last year. ((CBC))

Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland was in a conflict of interest when he kept his extramarital affair with a former legislative assembly clerk secret last year, an adjudicator has ruled.

In a report released Friday, Ted Hughes found that Roland "failed to maintain public confidence in his integrity, objectivity and impartiality" by not disclosing in a timely manner his intimate relationship with Patricia Russell, who was then the assembly's principal clerk of committees.

While finding Roland guilty of a breach of Section 75 of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, Hughes ruled that Roland's "error of judgment was one made in good faith."

On that basis, the act allows for the complaint to be dismissed without punishment.

Hughes's report was tabled following two weeks of public hearings in September and October, sparked after six MLAs filed a complaint alleging Roland was in a conflict of interest.

The MLAs who complained also accused Roland of using his relationship with Russell to obtain confidential information from MLAs' in-camera committee meetings.

In their testimony during the public hearings, Roland and Russell denied sharing such information.

The six MLAs who filed the complaint also testified, saying the relationship damages the public's trust in the N.W.T. legislative assembly.

"He acknowledged that in hindsight he probably should have come forward sooner with his disclosure," Hughes said of Roland's testimony.

"His sincerity was both apparent and real. In making that acknowledgement, in the manner that he did, he left me with no doubt that his error of judgment was one made in good faith."

Roland finally told Speaker Paul Delorey in November 2008 about the relationship with Russell, months after it began.

During the hearings, Roland said he wanted to keep the relationship private until he knew it would last.

Hughes' report calls that decision an error in judgment, and the MLAs had "fair and reasonable" concerns about it.

Roland and Russell remain together, but Russell no longer works in the legislative assembly.

MLAs spent Friday afternoon reading the report and declined to comment. They will have to decide whether they will accept or reject it.

Had Hughes decided that Roland should be punished, options under the act include a reprimand, a fine, suspension from office, or even the loss of his seat.

Corrections

  • N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland was found to have been in a conflict of interest by not immediately disclosing his intimate relationship with a legislature clerk last year. However, adjudicator Ted Hughes dismissed the complaint against the premier because he made the error "in good faith." An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Hughes found Roland not have been in a conflict of interest.
    Nov 01, 2009 11:45 PM CT
With files from the CBC's Lee Selleck