Thursday, December 3, 1998
Jim Rankin and John Duncanson
Gardner cleared in secret gun probePolice board chairman subject of cross-border investigation
Police board chairman Norm Gardner was secretly investigated -- and quietly cleared -- in a cross-border gun probe that involved the Toronto force, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, The Star has learned.
Toronto police looking into wrongdoing at the force's gun registration unit called the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the ATF earlier this year after they learned Gardner had taken his own gun into the United States, Chief David Boothby acknowledged yesterday.
All of this was news to members of the police services board, who are usually notified of ongoing investigations but were never informed that internal affairs was looking at Gardner's relationship with Paul Mullin, the former boss of the Toronto force's firearms registration unit.
"I didn't know a thing about it," Judy Sgro, board vice-chair, said yesterday after being told about the investigations.
"You mean he was being investigated by the FBI, the ATF and our police department? How could they be doing an internal investigation of a board member and the board not know about it?" Sgro said.
Gardner said yesterday he was interviewed by Toronto police sometime after he was elected board chair last January. He said he turned over his gun paperwork and was unaware until yesterday that the ATF and FBI were involved.
"There was an investigation to see if I did anything wrong and I didn't do anything wrong," Gardner said.
When asked why he never informed fellow board members that he had been interviewed by internal affairs, he said: "Well, there wasn't anything I ever felt there was ever any conflict in. I mean I didn't interfere in the investigation."
Gardner, a Toronto councillor (North York Centre) has had a controversial attachment to firearms for about 20 years. He had a rare permit to carry a concealed weapon in Ontario, suggested at one point that shop owners be armed and then, years later, in 1992, shot a suspect trying to rob his North York bakery. Gardner was cleared of any wrongdoing.
In a series of interviews with The Star and in documentation obtained by the paper, new details of Gardner's dealings with firearms have emerged:
Although he lives in York Region, which has its own firearms registrar, Gardner had paperwork allowing him to deregister and take his guns to the United States, prepared through the now-disgraced former boss of Toronto's firearms unit. Gardner told The Star that Mullin's involvement was "just a matter of facilitating... because in York Region the firearms registrar is only available twice a week."
Under Canadian law, restricted weapons such as handguns must be registered with the federal government. With a new gun law in place this month, owners such as Gardner would have needed to deregister their guns prior to December to transport them across the border to either sell them or keep them at residences in the United States.
Gardner has a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Florida where he has a Pompano Beach home. According to public records, he successfully applied for the permit in early 1997 after swearing to a standard line on the application declaring: "I desire a legal means to carry a concealed weapon or firearm for lawful self defence."
For about seven years, Gardner was allowed to carry a concealed weapon here at home. He has told reporters he received threats, and was granted permission to carry. In January, after he was elected chair of the police services board, he said he no longer carries a gun. "I'm unarmed," he told reporters, opening up his jacket.
how long Gardner was under investigation by the FBI and the AFT, and what the agencies were looking for, is unclear. Internal affairs did not return a Star phone call yesterday.
Boothby said he was briefed this week by internal affairs about the results of the probes south of the border.
"It's my understanding that we have gotten word back from both those agencies that no offence was committed in the U.S.," Boothby said.
In January, shortly before Gardner says he was first approached by internal affairs, the long-time police booster was elected police board chair.
Board vice-chair Sgro said Gardner, and the force, should have informed them that one of the seven-member board was under investigation.
"If I was being investigated I would assume the board would know about it. I mean, don't they have an obligation to inform the board that a member of the board is being investigated?"
"I'm glad he's been cleared of these issues; the point is, why didn't we know about it? It really concerns me. You know, they keep so many things away from the board, and this is just another example of that."
Board members Jeff Lyons, a Toronto lawyer, and city Councillor Sherene Shaw (Scarborough Agincourt) both said they had heard nothing about any investigation but want to know more about the affair before making any comments.
Board members Sylvia Hudson said the board was told of certain people under investigation during the gun unit probe, but Gardner's name never came up. "I think we should have been told."
Sgro, like other board members who first learned of the affair yesterday from Star reporters, said she will likely be asking some hard questions of senior officers.
Gardner was involved in board decisions concerning the internal investigation into the firearms unit and discipline meted out to Deputy Chief Reesor for selling a personal gun through the unit.
"It seems to me that he'd have a pretty clear conflict, especially on those issues, because he was being investigated himself," said Sgro. "He should have raised his issue and he should have stepped away from dealing with that whole issue of the gun registry and Reesor."
Boothby, however, told The Star's Jennifer Quinn last night that it was policy that police services board members not be informed of such investigations.
"I'm not saying Norm Gardner was under investigation, but it's our policy, and the board knows that, that we would not tell a board member that they're under investigation," Boothby said.
Reesor was quietly "counselled" by Chief Boothby for the 1997 gun sale. Board members, with the exception of Gardner, didn't know anything about the gun sale until it, and the chief's punishment, was revealed in The Star.
In April, when the sale was revealed, Gardner told The Star that he had some knowledge of the Reesor gun sale. Later, the board including Gardner, decided Reesor's punishment was sufficient.
Yesterday, Boothby said internal affairs initially looked into firearms transport permits issued to Gardner by Mullin. The retired Toronto police officer, who went on to manage the gun unit as a civilian, pleaded guilty in September to breach of trust for profiting from illegal gun sales he conducted through the unit.
Paperwork prepared three to four years ago by Mullin allowed Gardner to deregister two restricted firearms and take them to the border. "The transport permits issued by Mr. Mullin would allow Mr. Gardner to transport guns from point A to point B" within Canada, Boothby said.
Toronto internal affairs detectives then focused on what happened to the firearms after that point. Both the ATF and the FBI were contacted by Toronto police to look into it.
Gardner said internal affairs detectives who were probing allegations of wrongdoing at the firearms unit wanted to talk to him because he had made numerous visits to see Mullin over the years.
Gardner said it's no secret he made regular trips to the firearms unit to see Mullin. "When I came in, sure, he closed the door. We would have a coffee or whatever."
But above all else, Gardner said he would come with questions on behalf of fellow gun owners.
Gardner's no stranger to controversyNorm Gardner's history with police and guns: In 1986, on the day of his appointment to the police services board, he said store owners in high crime areas should be allowed to carry guns, provided they know how to use them.
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