An RCMP deputy commissioner who was among senior officers raising concerns about commissioner William Elliott's management style says he had the duty "to stand up" and complain to federal authorities.
"Someone had to stand up and I choose to do so, along with others," Raf Souccar told a standing committee on public safety and national security on Tuesday.
"I believed then, as I do now, that this was the right thing to, do the honourable thing and, in fact, it was my duty to do."
Souccar and several other RCMP executives complained in July to the authorities that Elliott, the first civilian to head the commission, was verbally abusive, arrogant and insulting.
Elliott announced Friday he intends to step down at the end of the summer.
"The abuse was there," Souccar said in his opening comments to the committee, adding: "I come from a school where you critique in private and praise in public," and Elliott criticized RCMP members publicly.
'I did not leak this matter to the media and I did not directly or indirectly influence anyone to leak this matter to the media.' — Raf Souccar, RCMP deputy commissioner
A number of executives came to his office to complain about Elliott's conduct, Souccar added, "some in tears."
Souccar, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Elliott, was demoted in November.
During the meeting at which he was told he was being demoted, he told the committee, Elliott told him he was widely seen as having leaked the matter to the media.
"I did not leak this matter to the media and I did not directly or indirectly influence anyone to leak this matter to the media," Souccar said. "I told him that I was prepared to take a polygraph test, and that offer still stands."
'I've always taken the high road'
On his way into the committee room, Souccar told reporters he has "always taken the high road" when it came to Elliott.
Several attempts were made to deal with internal issues privately, he testified. While Elliott acknowledged "that his behaviour and actions did have a negative impact on RCMP employees, he either refused to change or could not change."
Brent Rathgeber, a Conservative MP on the committee, questioned whether Souccar really felt that the issues would have been best dealt with privately.
"You don't know how this ended up in the hands of the media?" Rathgeber asked.
"No, I do not," Souccar said. "You will find nothing, in more than 33 years of service, to resemble this."
Former RCMP assistant commissioner Mike McDonell appeared at the committee along with Souccar.
McDonell, a vocal critic of Elliott, left the force in 2009 to take a job with the Ontario Provincial Police.
Liberal MP Andrew Kania asked whether complaints against Elliott stemmed from personal issues or issues relating to the operations of the force.
"Bill Elliott is not irresponsible, he is smart," Souccar said. "It's the interpersonal skill, quality that lacks.
"He wouldn't have intentionally done anything to harm the operations of the organization. I believe his heart was in the right place."
Souccar was asked whether complaints against Elliott would have been handled better if there'd been a board of management, a key recommendation of a 2007 task force report.
"The matter could have been dealt with more swiftly and in a much cleaner way, had there been a board of management in place," he said. "That board of management would be a conduit, a body between government and the RCMP."
Next boss 'should absolutely be a police officer'
During his testimony, Souccar said "there is no longer any doubt" about whether the next RCMP commissioner should be a police officer.
The next commissioner "will have to be a strong leader who can rally the troops, someone everyone can believe in and support," he said.
Souccar added that although the commissioner should be a police officer, he or she doesn't necessarily have to come from the ranks of the RCMP.
But, he said, the complaints against Elliott "had nothing to do with the fact that he came to the RCMP as a civilian."
Asked what challenges the next commissioner might face, Souccar listed tasks including the potential creation of a board of management as well as the fostering of transparency and accountability with the public, which he said would be key to gaining the public's trust.
He also mentioned dealing with problem employees as well as "being able to admit when an error was made, explain how it's going to be dealt with and showing the results at the end of the day."
The RCMP Act should also be amended to allow for the creation of a swifter discipline process, he said.