A panel of RCMP officers has concluded it does not have jurisdiction to deal with a constable's complaint of sexual harassment involving her supervisor because the case took too long to work its way through the bureaucratic process.
The complaint was first raised in 2004, when Const. Laura Lehne was posted to the northern Saskatchewan detachment of Buffalo Narrows.
Lehne complained that her supervisor, Cpl. Tim Korman, directed a number of disparaging and disturbing comments of a sexual nature at her. Her allegations were investigated and found to have merit, according to materials provided to the panel.
The RCMP has an internal process that outlines how harassment complaints are to be investigated and, when merited, examined by a board of inquiry.
Lehne's case took almost 3½ years to get from the formal complaint stage to an inquiry. The role of the inquiry, according to the RCMP, was to examine the circumstances of the harassment and recommend remedial action, which could include discipline against the supervisor involved.
Regional RCMP head missed deadline
A panel of three senior officers convened in Regina on Monday to look into the case, but before they could get to the substantive issues, Korman's lawyer argued the matter should be dismissed because of the RCMP took too long to investigate.
'I knew if they dragged their feet, they would miss the timelines' —RCMP Const. Laura Lehne
On Wednesday, the inquiry determined the time delay was too much, and the case ended. It found that the former head of the RCMP Saskatchewan, Darrell McFadyen, missed a deadline to file papers on the case, by one month.
After having her case thrown out, Lehne told reporters that she was worried it would end up that way.
"I've asked the high-ranking officials of the RCMP to deal with this for 4½ years now," Lehne said.
"I knew if they dragged their feet, they would miss the timelines. It gets thrown out today. And we knew [as] we watched that this was going to occur.
"I talked to the media in 2007 and 2008, saying the RCMP are dragging their feet and this will happen," Lehne went on. "And, sure enough, today it's thrown out."
Lehne said she is upset that although her complaint was found to be valid, no consequences would flow from it.
"It was investigated and founded, and he [Lehne's supervisor] walks out with not a problem," Lehne said after the hearing ended. "The only person who loses in this is me. The RCMP walk away from any accountability."
Lehne said she is considering other legal avenues to resolve her complaint, including going to the federal human rights commission.
She is currently on leave without pay from the RCMP.
She said she has already filed a civil lawsuit against the supervising officer.
Later on Wednesday, in a prepared statement for the media, the RCMP said the outcome was disappointing.
"Senior management of the RCMP would have liked to have seen this case come to a resolution with both parties having an opportunity to provide their sides of the story," the statement said.
It went on to confirm that Lehne had a legitimate case:
"The complaint of harassment was deemed to be founded although with this ruling, formal discipline has now ended."
In the statement, Chief Superintendent Garry Jay, a senior human resources officer for the RCMP, conceded that "errors were made" in how the case was moved through the internal process.