N.W.T. integrity commissioner calls for inquiry into complaint against Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA
Commissioner's report says records show Steve Norn broke self-isolation, made inaccurate statements to media
The Northwest Territories integrity commissioner says a sole adjudicator must launch an inquiry into alleged code of conduct violations by Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn.
David Phillip Jones released his investigation Tuesday into a complaint made on behalf of caucus by Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson, who serves as caucus chair.
The complaint is that MLA Steve Norn allegedly breached the Legislative Assembly's code of conduct when he broke his mandatory self-isolation period after travel and made inaccurate statements in the press about it.
In his 137-page report, Jones concludes that Norn's alleged actions were neither trivial nor inadvertent.
"Leaving self-isolation prior to the required 14 days is not a trivial or minor matter," writes Jones.
He goes on to say that "knowingly making inaccurate statements cannot be characterized as minor contraventions of the code, or ones which were made inadvertently, or were errors of judgment made in good faith."
Jones says the complaint against Norn raises "serious questions" about the MLA's actions.
He also says Norn didn't give over all the information asked of him, including a detailed reason for why he left the territory and what he did during his trip. This meant Jones wasn't able to determine whether the trip itself violated the code.
An inquiry by an adjudicator, writes Jones, will offer "definitive determinations about these matters." As well, an adjudicator has the ability to issue a fine or recommend other sanctions.
Norn also faces charges under the Northwest Territories Public Health Act.
The allegations outlined in the report haven't been proven in court.
According to the findings of the commissioner's report, Norn failed to self-isolate for 14 days after a trip to Grand Prairie, Alta., in April, as per public health orders at the time. He also allegedly failed to follow his self-isolation plan, and misled the public about his compliance with the self-isolation order.
The allegations stem from a series of events that unfolded in N.W.T. media, beginning on April 22.
That's when Norn identified himself and a family member as two of the people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in a cluster of cases in Yellowknife.
The report says Norn entered the Legislative Assembly a day before the end of his mandatory self-isolation period, and that in doing so he breached a public health order. The report says Norn also visited the Yellowknife Racquet Club on the final day of his self-isolation period.
Neither of these was a case of going a few metres outside of his home lot, which might perhaps be considered a minor infraction.- David Phillip Jones, N.W.T. integrity commissioner
"Neither of these was a case of going a few metres outside of his home lot, which might perhaps be considered a minor infraction," writes Jones.
The report also says Norn gave different accounts to Cabin Radio and CBC.
In an April 25 Cabin Radio story, Norn says he followed all the rules and stayed home, but in a May 5 CBC report, Norn admits to breaking self-isolation, saying, "If public health wants to do something with that, they can. Absolutely, I'll own it."
Jones says Norn's breach of the mandatory self-isolation period, and his inaccurate statements, constitute "sufficient grounds to warrant an inquiry."
Complaint should be dismissed, says Norn's lawyer
In the report, Norn's lawyer says the complaint should be dismissed.
The lawyer says the violation was "minor or was committed inadvertently or due to an error in judgment made in good faith," and that Norn "took all reasonable measures" not to break the code of conduct.
According to the report, Norn says there is no evidence anyone contracted COVID-19 as a result of him breaking self-isolation "mere hours" before its expiry.
He also says the complaint is "politically-motivated," and therefore "not made in good faith."
Jones says he found no evidence that the complaint was made in bad faith.
Dismissing complaint would render code 'ineffective,' says commissioner
The code of conduct "requires members to comply with the law, hold themselves to a high standard of conduct, act with integrity, and not do anything to impair public trust either in the member or the Legislative Assembly," writes Jones.
"Mr. Norn's breaching the mandatory self-isolation period, and his making statements that he had complied with that obligation when he had not done so, both fall short of the standards contained in the code."
Jones says that to dismiss the complaint would render the code of conduct "ineffective."
Now, the commissioner of the Northwest Territories will appoint an adjudicator from a list of names pre-approved by the Legislative Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly is ultimately responsible for the discipline or censure of an MLA.