Friday, December 4, 1998

Jim Rankin

p. B1.

Gardner faces conflict questions

Cleared in probe police chair faces new queries

Norm Gardner may have been cleared by the FBI in a gun investigation south of the border, but the Toronto police services board chairman is fending off questions about possible conflict-of-interest at home.

Judy Sgro, the board's vice-chair, said members will likely have a closed meeting with Gardner about the affair before the board's next meeting Dec. 15.

Chief David Boothby confirmed this week that Internal Affairs detectives here had looked into Gardner's dealings with former Toronto gun registrar Paul Mullin and had also called on the FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to look into the transport of personal firearms.

During that investigation, it is now clear Gardner was involved in confidential briefings and decision-making surrounding the over-all probe into wrongdoing at the gun registration unit.

Gardner never informed his fellow board members that he had been questioned about his personal dealings with Mullin. Boothby said it's force policy not to inform the board a member is being investigated.

"We're going to try and get some more information here and try and look at the policy in place, and discuss whether it's an appropriate one," Sgro said yesterday. "Should it not be clear, if there is some issue of possible conflict, or the perception of a conflict, that it should be brought to the attention of the other board members?"

"And maybe the individual on the board should be stepping aside while this is going on."

A defiant-sounding Gardner said he's ready for any criticism. He said he did nothing wrong, was cleared by the police and the thought that he might be in a conflict "never crossed his mind."

Gardner said he has already spoken to three fellow board members -- lawyer Jeff Lyons, Sylvia Hudson and city Councillor Sherene Shaw -- and they are "reasonably satisfied with what I did." Everything I'm doing here to help other people seems to wind up being misconstrued..."

Gardner, a gun enthusiast, acknowledged he was involved in at least one closed board meeting concerning the unit when police had already questioned him about Mullin. It involved the board's decision surrounding discipline meted out to Deputy Chief Steve Reesor for the sale of a personal firearm through the unit.

Gardner, police board will meet over concerns

Two councillors said yesterday that they want to know why Gardner did not excuse himself from those discussions. "He should have told the police board during the process that he was being investigated, at a minimum," said Michael Prue (East York).

Said Olivia Chow (Downtown): "There may have been some conflict involved . . . If he was being investigated on the same problem as Reesor was, and at the same time, then I think there are some real problems."

Gardner defended his participation in the Reesor discipline decision yesterday, saying that he considered his questioning by Internal Affairs and the Reesor case "so far apart in nature that there was not anything to bring them close together."

Former board chair Susan Eng said a board member who has been questioned by police in a criminal probe has a duty to report to fellow members.

"Norm Gardner should have immediately declared a conflict, stepped from the board until this was done..."

Solicitor-General Bob Runciman said he has not been asked to investigate any potential conflict on Gardner's part. Toronto police Superintendent Rocky Cleveland, head of Internal Affairs, stressed yesterday that the investigation was not treated differently.

Yesterday, The Star revealed Gardner was quietly investigated and cleared by the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in an investigation into the movement of his personal firearms.

The probe began in Toronto, with Internal Affairs detectives investigating wrongdoing at the force's firearms unit and a guns-for-profit scheme involving Mullin. Mullin pleaded guilty in September to profiting from gun sales he conducted through the unit. Mullin prepared paperwork that allowed Gardner to take two restricted weapons permanently out of Canada. Gardner said he keeps them at his home in Florida.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: February 15, 1999
Last modified: February 15, 1999

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