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Conflict costs revealed

Costs total Executive's bill just tip of iceberg for taxpayers

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 14/01) - It is a bargain compared to the $1.7 million the Morin inquiry cost, but $609,132 is nothing to sneeze at.

NNSL Photo

Legal costs

Carol Roberts: $212,488
Jane Groenewegen: $168,826
Law clerk: $80,902 *
John Bayly: $30,023
Stephen Kakfwi: $25,675
Lynda Sorensen: $25,593

Other costs

Hansard transcription: $33,956
Miscellaneous: $12,334 **
Transportation: $9,865
Compensation, benefits: $3,897
Materials, supplies: $2,816
Purchased services: $2,756
Total: $609,132

* law clerk on contract to assembly, costs over and above contracted services
** includes catering, sound and camera techs, etc.

Sources: Legislative Assembly, Department of the Executive

That is the bill taxpayers will foot for the protracted conflict of interest battle between former cabinet minister Jane Groenewegen and former conflict of interest commissioner Carol Roberts.

Brendan Bell, who chaired the special committee that dealt with Groenewegen's bias complaint against the commissioner, said constituents he spoke to at the start of the process were skeptical about its merit.

"I don't think people still feel that way or still think that," said the Yellowknife South MLA.

"I think they've seen we brought forward some heavy recommendations, that we were serious about cleaning this up."

The special committee recommended the assembly request the resignations of Roberts and the resignation of Groenewegen from cabinet.

Though indirectly, it also recommended the premier ask for the resignations of two of his most senior staffers, John Bayly and Lynda Sorensen, for their part in a secret recording Groenewegen made of a telephone conversation with Roberts.

Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee was one of the most outspoken critics of the committee and its report. In fact, she was booted out of the assembly for a day for refusing to retract her use of the phrase "palace coup" to describe some of the fallout of the report.

"We should be absolutely embarrassed," said Lee of the costs. "A clerical error in a corporate registry should not go to the question of the premier to govern and cost this much."

The original conflict complaint filed against Groenewegen focused on her being listed as a director of a company she partly owned. After the special committee's report was released, the question of confidence in the premier became an issue.

Lee noted that a number of costs will never be reported -- the staff time and cabinet time consumed by the process.

Costs began to snowball when attention turned away from the original conflict of interest complaint against Groenewegen to her bias complaint against the commissioner.

Dealing with the conflict complaint cost $104,127. The bill for the board of management's portion of the bias complaint totalled $183,586. Costs associated with the special committee process, which looked into the bias complaint and Groenewegen's secret recordings, were $321,418.

When the board of management chose to pay only the legal expenses of commissioner Carol Roberts for the special committee hearing, cabinet decided to pay for lawyers for Groenewegen, Premier Stephen Kakfwi, Sorensen and Bayly.

Lee noted the "nightmare" is not yet over. Carol Roberts has asked for a judicial review of the assembly's decision to fire her.