Nfld. & Labrador

Opposition raising possible conflict of interest over justice investigation of Ed Martin severance

PC Leader Paul Davis says the Department of Justice is too deeply connected to the issue of former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin's severance to do a proper investigation.

Top justice official sits on the new Nalcor board

The severance paid to Ed Martin is under investigation by the justice department. The PC leader says it's better investigated by the auditor general (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

PC Leader Paul Davis says the Department of Justice is too deeply connected to the issue of former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin's severance to do a proper investigation.

The premier asked the department to look into whether $1.4 million dollars should have been paid to Martin after he publicly stated he was stepping down. It was revealed this week he was actually fired by the board without cause.

Heather Jacobs is the deputy minister in the Department of Justice, but was also appointed to the board of Nalcor after the previous board approved Martin's severance and then quit.

Her department is now reviewing the decision, something Paul Davis says is inadequate.

"Is it appropriate to have a branch of government, it's a line department of government, conducting an investigation where the deputy minister, who's the senior bureaucrat, is a member of the Nalcor board...knowing that she was on the board when the severance was paid," said Davis.

On Thursday Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said it's not an issue because Jacobs is not part of the investigation.

"She isn't involved in any way, shape or form with this matter," said Parsons.

Andrew Parsons says there's no conflict because the top bureaucrat in the Department of Justice and Public Safety, who also sits on the Nalcor board, isn't involved in the investigation (CBC)

But Davis said he's also concerned about the minister's connection to all of this.

The premier has been at the centre of this controversy, with questions about why he kept the investigation quiet for weeks, and why he continued to say Martin had stepped aside when he'd been told the board had actually fired him without cause, allowing the severance pay out.

Davis said Parsons is now overseeing an investigation that's looking into Parson's boss, the premier, and Davis said the actions of the premier's chief of staff, Kelvin Parsons (Andrew Parsons' father), will also be part of the investigation. 

"When you look at this at totality, then it doesn't lend to the opportunity for an independent review of what's taken place," he said.

Davis is joining the NDP in calling for the auditor general to take over the investigation.

He said Terry Paddon would have more power and more independence.

"If there's a perceived conflict then the justice department is not likely the right agency to investigate," Davis said.

The premier said the justice investigation should be wrapped up in a matter of days. He's open to having the auditor general investigate, depending on what the justice review finds.

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.

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