Tuesday, December 8, 1998

Jim Duncanson

p. B3.

Gardner defends gun probe actions

Police chairman 'almost forgot' interrogation

Toronto police board chairman Norm Gardner says he didn't tell fellow board members he had been questioned by internal affairs detectives about his personal gun dealings because it "happened so fast that even I almost forgot about it."

Gardner has sent a two-page letter to police board members and city councillors stating he is a victim of media hype surrounding a perceived conflict of interest on his part in a criminal investigation into the force's firearm registration unit.

Last week, The Star revealed Gardner had been the subject of an investigation into his personal dealings with the now-disgraced head of the firearms unit and into the movement of personal firearms south of the border.

The investigation began with an interview with Toronto internal affairs detectives and later involved assistance from the U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

In his letter, the long-time police board member said he sought legal advise after the news of the investigations became public about whether he was in any conflict.

'I was unaware of any further investigation of my gun permits'

Because he didn't know his transport of personal firearms to the United States was the subject of a probe, Gardner maintains he is not in conflict of interest.

Gardner said he now recalls informing his fellow board at an in-camera meeting dealing with the gun probe that the "inquiry was quite widespread and that even I was interviewed in the process."

In his letter, Gardner said he didn't give details about what he had told internal affairs because none of the board members asked about the content of the interview and that "it happened so fast that even I almost forgot about it."

He also wrote that certain media had attempted to plant a "seed of doubt" in colleagues' minds regarding whether or not he knew he was under investigation while involved in police board decision surrounding the firearms unit scandal.

"This is scandalous to say the least, particularly when I was unaware of any further investigation of my gun permits by the investigating officers," wrote Gardner.

In interviews with The Star, Gardner said he was asked to come into the internal affairs offices to be interviewed in February or March but "never felt that I had been the subject of an investigation."

"In fact, I think the investigating officer said, 'It looks like everything's all right here.' And that was it." He reiterated that he only learned of the extent of the probe last week.

Gardner says he understood he was to keep the information on the probe confidential

Gardner acknowledged that he went to the firearms unit and he had personal paperwork prepared through Paul Mullin, the former gun registrar who recently pleaded guilty to breach of trust for profiting from illegal sales at the unit.

The paperwork allowed Gardner to deregister and transport his guns to the United States. Gardner lives in York Region, which has its own registrar.

He 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."

In July, while the police still were quietly probing Gardner's gun dealings, the 60-year-old board chairman took part in a decision concerning punishment meted out to deputy Chief Reesor, who was secretly counselled by Chief David Boothby for selling a personal firearm through the gun unit.

The board decided the chief had made the right decision and closed the Reesor matter.

In addition to saying he didn't know he was under investigation at the time, Gardner said in his letter that he understood the over-all interrogation was ongoing and "I was to keep the information confidential."

After it was made public Gardner had been cleared in the police probe, some councillors and police board members said he should have stepped aside from discussions around the firearm investigation.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

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

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