Ontario’s integrity commissioner says Premier Doug Ford did not breach conflict of interest rules during the appointment of his friend Ron Taverner as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner.
“I found that the Premier stayed at arm’s length from the recruitment process and that he believed it to be independent,” J. David Wake said in the report released on Wednesday.
But Wake did find there were “some troubling aspects of the recruitment process” and that the appointment process itself was flawed.
Wake’s investigation was launched after complaints from opposition politicians over Taverner’s appointment.
Taverner, 72, a Toronto police superintendent, initially did not meet the criteria listed for the position and the government admitted it changed the requirements to attract a wider range of candidates.
Earlier this month, Taverner withdrew his name from consideration for the job because of the controversy around his appointment. He said he needed to protect the integrity of front-line officers.
After he withdrew his name, the government named Thomas Carrique as the new OPP commissioner. Carrique is currently deputy chief of York Regional Police.
In a statement, Ford said the report clears him and his government.
“I would like to say this represents a complete vindication for our government,” Ford said on Wednesday. “It is now clear that, as we said from the beginning, this complaint was frivolous and without merit.”
Ford said the government will not let “disruptive partisan tactics” distract it from what he called its mandate.
“Since the beginning of this process, we have been clear about the need for an outside voice to bring in a new positive culture at the OPP,” he said.
Ford has maintained throughout that he did nothing wrong and has accused the opposition of politicizing the hiring process.
Offered cannabis job
Wake said the issue raises questions about the power of the premier and cabinet to make appointments.
He recommends that there should be an “established appointment process in place which is independent, transparent and readily activated with predetermined criteria” through which the province can appoint its top cop.
Wake conducted his inquiry over three months and interviewed 21 witnesses in person. He also obtained evidence from another eight people in writing and reviewed more than 3,500 documents.
Both Ford and Taverner told Wake in interviews that they are friends and are in contact one or two times a week.
The report noted that, in August 2018, Taverner was also offered a $270,000 job at the Ontario Cannabis Store as president of community partnerships, before the OPP job became available.
The four-year contract included a potential performance bonus of up to 10 per cent of his salary, but Taverner declined.
Wake’s report says Taverner was “getting cold feet” after receiving the offer because it would mean leaving his 50-year policing career.
According to the report, Taverner said it “really wasn’t about the money. It was more whether I could get my head around not being a cop.”
“What I found most disconcerting in all the evidence were the text messages (from <a href=”https://twitter.com/SteveOrsini?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SteveOrsini</a> to <a href=”https://twitter.com/Dean_French?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Dean_French</a>) on Mr. Taverner’s progress throughout the process. Anyone examining these messages would have serious doubts as<br>to the fairness of the process to the other candidates.” <a href=”https://t.co/4RzzNvYHyn”>pic.twitter.com/4RzzNvYHyn</a>
This story originally appeared on CBC