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N.W.T. premier's extramarital affair may be subject of public inquiry

The extramarital affair between Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland and a legislative assembly officer may be subject to a public inquiry.

The extramarital affair between Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland and a legislative assembly officer may be subject to a public inquiry.

Conflict-of-interest commissioner Gerald Gerrand has ruled that it's reasonable to believe Roland's affair with Patricia Russell compromised his duty to MLAs and the public.

He has sent the matter to an adjudicator to investigate. Past investigations by a sole adjudicator have involved public hearings.

Gerrand's report on the affair was tabled Wednesday in the legislature.

Roland told CBC News he is disappointed with the development, but added he will not step aside as premier during the investigation.

"Our duty is we get on with work. We're doing things," Roland said outside the legislature Wednesday.

"As we've watched in previous assemblies, when premiers were called up on conflict and inquiries were held, they held their post and work continued."

Secret for at least 2 months

Gerrand's report found that Roland's relationship with Russell was kept secret for two months or more, during which time Russell was attending confidential meetings of assembly committees.

As an assembly officer, part of Russell's job was to provide unbiased advice to the Speaker during session.

Roland acknowledged his relationship in the legislature in February, months after news reports began circulating about it.

Later that month, six MLAs asked Gerrand to investigate the premier's affair to determine whether Roland had crossed the line by failing to make it public.

Inquiry could be long, painful, MLA says

MLAs raised concerns that Russell might have shared with Roland confidential information from those meetings.

Both Roland and Russell denied sharing confidential information from committee meetings.

But eight MLAs told Gerrand during his investigation that they believed Roland had obtained details he should not have known. He even boasted about that knowledge, according to some MLAs.

"This is where the evidence will come to light, because of the capacity of the sole adjudicator to subpoena documents, phone bills, email records, all those sorts of things," said Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen, one of the six MLAs who filed the complaint against Roland.

"It is going to be a drawn-out and possibly painful experience for people."

Previous inquiries by an adjudicator have included lawyers for all parties, as well as many witnesses.

No date has been set for the inquiry to begin.

Roland is living with Russell, who no longer works at the legislature but remains a government employee. Roland and his wife, Shawna, have six children.

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