British Columbia

Mountie files lawsuit against RCMP alleging 'malicious prosecution' after being cleared of misconduct

Two B.C. Mounties fear their careers have been ruined even though they have been cleared of misconduct allegations over their handling of an extra-marital affair between two co-workers. One of them faces some reinstated allegations of misconduct by the RCMP.

Tribunals cleared Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth and husband Insp. Suki Manj, but he faces reinstated allegations

Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth and Insp. Suki Manj look at mementos from their careers they had packed away. (Manjula Dufresne/CBC)

A B.C. Mountie has filed a civil lawsuit against the RCMP for malicious prosecution after she was suspended for almost two years and faced conduct allegations of lying and abuse of power that were overturned by an internal tribunal. 

Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth, the daughter of an RCMP officer, can barely speak and her eyes fill up with tears as she tries to explain why she feels so hurt and betrayed by her employer after she successfully challenged every allegation against her.

Her husband, Insp. Suki Manj, who faced similar accusations by the force, was also cleared. However, he now faces some reinstated allegations of misconduct by the RCMP.

"I live by the core values of the RCMP, and to be accused of lying, and hearing everything you are not, is mortifying," said Hollingsworth, who was reinstated at work this summer. 

Her lawsuit was filed on Friday. The RCMP has not yet filed a statement of defence.

Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth and Insp. Suki Manj in Lloydminster, Alta., on Canada Day 2016. (Manj family photo)

Hollingsworth and Manj are both from B.C. and served in the RCMP in the province before they moved to the detachment in Lloydminster, Alta.

Less than two years into their time there, their rising careers came to a crashing halt when they were transferred back to B.C. in July 2016 over Manj's handling of a relationship between two employees under his command. 

Manj, the officer in charge of the Lloydminster detachment, got into trouble with his bosses for trying to follow policy when the two employees — a civilian officer who was an office manager on the senior management team, and a dog handler — began an extra-marital relationship. The pair denied the relationship, but it has since been acknowledged by the RCMP.

Manj felt the relationship was inappropriate, unbecoming and contrary to the Interpersonal Workplace Relationship Policy (IWRP)

Manj and Hollingsworth say they knew the rules, having reported their own relationship and having navigated the complex policies in place to manage interpersonal relationships in their workplace.

Manj took the matter to his bosses in K Division (Alberta) repeatedly. But the office manager — a woman Manj and Hollingsworth considered a close friend — denied the relationship and went on stress leave. Faced with the possibility of a harassment suit, Manj's bosses told him it was a private matter and suggested he let it go.

When he persisted, they decided to move him back to B.C. to a job he felt was detrimental to his career. After they investigated his handling of the relationship, they decided to suspend both him and Hollingsworth in September 2017.

Manj and Hollingsworth speak to the CBC's Anita Bathe in their Chilliwack, B.C., home. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

The RCMP accused the couple of abusing their power to seek out intimate details of the private life of the dog handler at the detachment, who was married to a friend of theirs. 

"They suspend you on the same day, no explanation … your whole being is taken from you," Manj said in an interview as he sat beside Hollingworth on a couch at their Chilliwack, B.C., home. "Your service pistol, your badge, your ID, and for an RCMP officer … it's a huge deal."

Unproven allegations

Manj faced 14 allegations in the tribunal, which were eventually reduced to four. They included failing to carry out lawful orders and directions; not acting with fairness and impartiality; failing to be diligent in the performance of his duties, including taking appropriate action to aid any person exposed to danger; and not providing a complete and accurate account of what happened.

Hollingsworth faced five allegations. They included failing to act to act with integrity, fairness and impartiality; lying; and abusing her authority for meddling in the business of the couple allegedly having the affair, by setting up surveillance and running licence plates.

Hollingsworth was cleared of her allegations in November 2018 in an oral decision. She received a written decision in May, which cleared the way for her return to work.

Read the full written decision below:

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Manj was cleared of his allegations on Oct. 4 after a five-day hearing, but the RCMP are trying to reinstate allegations that were previously dropped, according to his lawyer, Steven Rogers. 

Hollingsworth's civil claim against the RCMP alleges "malicious prosecution" because "[the RCMP's] conduct was egregious, high-handed and offensive to the public's sense of decency."

The suit states that her treatment has caused her "emotional and psychological damage and harm to her reputation" and harmed her career, including the loss of opportunities for promotions.

Unreliable evidence 

At the end of Manj's five-day tribunal hearing, Gerry Annetts, who presided over it, said the evidence from Manj's bosses Chief Supt. Shahin Mehdizadeh and Chief Supt. Wendell Reimer was "unreliable."

Annetts also ruled that evidence from the RCMP's witness, Staff Sgt. Sarah Knelsen, was "some of the most biased, leading, unreliable statements I have ever seen," according to notes provided by Manj's lawyer from the oral decision.

A written decision is yet to come. 

Evidence given by Chief Supt. Shahin Mehdizadeh was found to be 'unreliable.' (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC )

Annetts also apparently wished Manj a better experience with the RCMP than he has experienced over the past few years.

Neither the RCMP nor its adjudication registrar could provide a transcript and the RCMP would not comment on the case.

Manj says it may be another painful year before the reinstated charges are dealt with.

The couple have packed away all the mementos and photos of their careers in the basement, finding them too hard to look at. 

Manj's voice breaks as he reads out an award from the City of Lloydminster for his service: "Thank you for leaving a legacy of honesty, hard work, integrity and kindness in our community."

Another award from the detachment during his tenure reads: "You have made positive changes in every area of our detachment. Your heart and compassion for all the employees as well as the community is encouraging and motivating."

The couple say they have suffered alienation, shame and humiliation, and that they have hidden in their home and cried a lot through their ordeal. 

"I'm very proud to call myself an RCMP officer … I've never done anything to hurt anybody or bring the RCMP into disrepute because I believe in the organization," Manj said. 

"I believe in the majority of people that do the job, that put on the uniform."

With files from Anita Bathe