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Swimming with the sharks

Board of MLAs ruling on legal arguments

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 28/01) - They aren't lawyers but, like everyone else involved in the Jane Groenewegen conflict case, the MLAs on the board of management have lawyers to advise them.

Board members will be relying heavily on legislative assembly lawyers Katherine Peterson and Jim Posnick for advice on how to deal with legal arguments from lawyers representing Jane Groenewegen and conflict of interest commissioner Carol Roberts, who is also a lawyer.

"Not being a lawyer, I'm not that comfortable (dealing with legal arguments)," admitted board member and Yellowknife MLA Brendan Bell.

"But we take advice from the law clerks, who are lawyers. After hearing their technical advice I feel much more comfortable."

"I don't envy them," said Groenewegen of the board members. "We are, as indicated previously, breaking new ground on this."

Taking exception to comments made last week by Jack Rowe, who filed the complaint against her, Groenewegen said she's fighting to make sure the complaint is investigated fairly.

"I would not raise this for frivolous or vexatious reasons," Groenewegen said. "Anyone who wants to can look at my track record and realize I wouldn't raise this, as Mr. Rowe said, to create smoke and mirrors."

On Thursday Posnick set out a process for dealing with the jurisdictional dispute, which flowed from an application from Groenewegen to have Roberts removed from the case.

May 25 was the deadline for initial legal arguments from both sides. Each has until May 30 to reply to arguments.

Roberts has agreed not to release her report on the complaint until the jurisdictional dispute is resolved. She believes the board does not have the authority to interfere with her investigation.

Roberts has completed the investigation and is writing up a report, which she had planned to present during the assembly's next session, which begins June 5.

The board on Thursday approved the appointment of a panel from which the assembly can select sole adjudicators for conflict of interest public inquiries. The panel includes Roberts' predecessor, Robert Clark, raising another potential conflict of interest. The conflict and privacy commissioner for Alberta helped draft NWT conflict legislation and advised ministers, including Groenewegen, on how to comply with conflict laws.