Politics

RCMP face potential legal roadblock to firing man over police college misconduct

Documents filed at federal court accuse RCMP brass of overstepping their authority by trying to discipline a civilian employee twice for the same incidents of misbehaviour at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.

Lawyer Louise Morel says RCMP can't retroactively subject her client to double jeopardy

The lawyer for a Mountie disciplined for behaviour at an Ottawa police college says RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson approved a retroactive extension of the disciplinary period in order to further punish her client. (Canadian Press)

Documents filed at federal court accuse RCMP brass of overstepping their authority by trying to discipline a civilian employee a second time for the same incidents of misbehaviour at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. 

Marco Calandrini used to teach forced explosive techniques at the RCMP-run school before he was disciplined and moved to another section of the police force.

He and Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme are at the centre of allegations of bullying, harassment and nudity at the office during work hours.

In a notice of application filed this week at Federal Court, Calandrini's lawyer, Louise Morel, alleges senior managers at the RCMP retroactively granted themselves the power to extend the timeframe for the dismissal process, even though the deadline had long passed.

Morel said the police force has broken its own rules of discipline in trying to punish Calandrini a second time. She calls it double jeopardy.

"Personally, I think it's unconscionable for an an employer to exercise such Draconian powers against its employees," she told CBC News.

The RCMP first suspended Calandrini for workplace misconduct in 2014. Four men who used to work at the college told CBC News that Calandrini and Solesme regularly engaged in profane office high-jinks. Calandrini was docked five days' pay.

But not long after, the force notified Calandrini he was facing additional allegations of bad behaviour at the office.

Last fall, the force held a conduct meeting and docked Calandrini an additional 15 days' pay.

CBC News reported on misconduct at the police college in February.

Within two weeks, Assistant Commissioner Craig MacMillan asked for a retroactive extension of the period where Calandrini could be dismissed. Morel said Commissioner Bob Paulson granted the request. 

"He's been found guilty by the employer. He's had a sanction imposed by an assistant commissioner, a commanding officer of a division and now we've decided because there's too much media attention and criticism, 'Oh geez, he didn't get enough! We're going after him again,'" Morel said.

The RCMP has not responded to CBC's request for comment.

Deadline for dismissal expired

While the RCMP's own rules allow it to alter punishment at any time, managers have only one year to decide whether to fire an employee.

As the force's opportunity to fire Calandrini had expired, Morel is asking the federal court to review the RCMP's procedural manoeuvres. She said the RCMP did not provide any rationale or evidence to justify a retroactive extension of the limitation period.

Her application adds the force has yet to explain its decision not to take a second look at its initial disciplinary decision when it legitimately had the chance.

All of this takes place as a Senate committee examines bill C-7, which aims to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada decision granting Mounties the right to collective bargaining.

"There is no union to protect the members. They used to have a members' representative program but that has also been abolished. So these members are on their own against their employer, so it's a little bit like David and Goliath," said Morel.

Within days of learning about the allegations at the Canadian Police Collge, Commissioner Bob Paulson ordered a wide-ranging review of everything that occurred at the explosives unit. The report is expected to be released soon. 

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