MLA wants answers on inquiry costs
Why were Bailey, Mrdjenovich costs paid, Ootes asks

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 22/99) - Taxpayers shelled out $1.7 million to pay for last year's conflict of interest inquiry and the two business people found to have profited from their relationship with former premier Don Morin will have their legal costs paid from public funds.

The legislative assembly's Management and Services Board -- consisting of four MLAs and chaired by speaker Sam Gargan -- made the decision in December. Earlier last year, the MSB had ruled against a recommendation by Conflict of Interest Commissioner Anne Crawford that Roland Bailey and Mike Mrdjenovich have their legal costs associated with the inquiry paid for from public funds.

The decision has some MLAs asking questions. North Slave MLA James Rabesca says he thinks various MLAs will begin asking questions about the fees.

"I think some (MLAs) will want to write Sam (Gargan) and find out the reasons," he said last week.

On Thursday, Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes said he was baffled when he learned about the MSB's reversal on the legal fees.

He's written to Gargan looking for answers.

"It baffles me," Ootes said. "This is a complete reversal of what the (Conflict of Interest) Commissioner report says... There may be very legal and legitimate reasons but we don't know them."

In her final report, Crawford said Bailey and Mrdjenovich did not want their costs paid.

Reached Thursday, Bailey said he was happy with the board's decision.

"They reversed and agreed to reimburse us and I'm very pleased," he said.

When asked if he was worried about public perception concerning the funding of his legal fees in light of the fact Crawford had found him in violation of GNWT post-employment guidelines, Bailey said he didn't agree with the commissioner.

"I guess I have a difference of opinion on that," he said.

Mike Mrdjenovich could not be reached for comment.

In Fort Smith, Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger disagreed with Ootes and Rabesca. He said it is time to put the whole saga behind MLAs and move on.

"I don't think we should prolong this thing," he said, adding most MLAs have accepted the political price of paying the fees in order to end the saga.

At the time the decision to pay the fees was made, MLAs on the board were Gargan as chair, Kivallivik MLA Kevin O'Brien, Kitikmeot MLA Kelvin Ng, Nunakput MLA Vince Steen and Inuvik MLA Floyd Roland.

None could be reached for comment.