B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner dismisses Atwell’s spyware, Saanich police complaints

Former Attorney General Wally Oppal brought in to conduct dispute resolution, fails after four months, says commissioner

  • Jun. 23, 2015 7:00 a.m.

B.C.’s Police Complaint Commissioner is closing the books on Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell’s complaints about a spyware investigation and allegations of information leaks against his own municipality’s police department.

Commissioner Stan Lowe issued a statement Tuesday that reveals former B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal had been brought in to oversee a dispute resolution process between Atwell and Saanich PD that lasted four months.

Atwell’s complaints related to Saanich PD Chief Bob Downie’s conclusions in December there had been no criminal wrongdoing with the installation and use of Spector 360, an employee monitoring software tool installed on Atwell’s computer when he assumed office. Atwell asked the OPCC to investigate whether a conflict of interest existed in that investigation, as Downie’s wife and Atwell’s executive assistant, Jennifer Downie, used a computer targeted by the spyware.

Atwell had also filed a complaint through his lawyer after media reports emerged from a Dec. 11 incident in which Atwell called 911 and Saanich Police responded. Atwell had hoped the OPCC would recommend an outside police force review questions surrounding the incidents.

In arriving at our determination, it is important that the public understand that the complaint made by Mayor Atwell was treated no differently than any other complaint received from a member of the public,” Lowe said in a statement.

The Commissioner regrets the lengthy delay in arriving at our admissibility determination in this case as the complaint by Mayor Atwell was made on January 12, 2015, through his legal counsel. It is important that the public is made aware that a substantial portion of this delay can be accounted for by a prolonged attempt to resolve this matter between the parties through voluntary Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).”

Lowe reveals that Oppal oversaw a dispute resolution process over a four-month period, and that the process came to “an unsuccessful end” on May 15.

On May 19, the OPCC continued with its admissibility assessment, “in which we sought further information from Mayor Atwell, and examined materials received from a number of sources, including the investigative findings of the Information and Privacy Commissioner on a related matter,” Lowe continued. “Based on the information we have received to date, we have determined Mayor Atwell’s complaints against members of the Saanich Police Department are inadmissible as they do not constitute misconduct as defined pursuant to the Police Act of British Columbia. Mayor Atwell has been provided a more detailed written explanation of our decision.”

Atwell could not be immediately reached for comment.

More to come.

OPCC 10329 2015-06-23 Media Statement

Saanich News