The first day of an inquiry into a complaint about the conduct of MLA Steve Norn ended with procedural wrangling, accusations of political motivation and a still-missing Steve Norn.
The inquiry, overseen by sole adjudicator R.L. Barclay of Saskatchewan, saw its first day close with Norn’s lawyer, Steven Cooper, appearing by video link from Alberta, applying to have the proceeding adjourned to give him more time to properly review “probably more than 1,000 pages” of evidence provided by Barclay’s counsel, Maurice Laprairie.
Barclay explained to the hearing that his title is a “fancy” way of saying “judge,” and that Laprairie acts as an “extension,” or an assistant with the authority to carry out a range of activities on Barclay’s behalf.
Cooper said he had received documents, holding up one that appeared to be at least an inch thick, as recently as that morning, on Sunday, Oct. 3 and on Friday, Oct. 1.
He said that anyone employing fictitious detective Sherlock Holmes’ method of elimination would come to the conclusion that the only reason Barclay insisted the inquiry begin today was that the Legislative Assembly returns to session in 10 days.
“This date is politically motivated,” Cooper said. “This does not feel like an inquistion but rather it feels like a prosecution.”
Laprairie countered that the more recent volume of documents he sent over was just a complilation of already-sent material that was shared “as a courtesy.”
He said Cooper had acknowledged receipt of some of that material weeks or months ago.
He said any blame for delays lay “squarely on the shoulders” of Cooper, who he said wrote 19 lengthy letters to Barclay since taking on Norn’s case, each of which required a response.
The disclosure has been “fulsome and timely,” he said, in fact, it represented one of the most organized disclosures he’d witnessed in 45 years of practicing law before the Court of the Queen’s Bench and the Court of Appeal in Saskatchewan.
“There is no basis for this claim.”
Barclay said he would render a decision on Cooper’s request to adjourn at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Oct. 5.
The debate took place without one important piece – Norn himself.
When the hearing began at 10 a.m., Cooper said that the member for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh was experiencing an “emergent medical issue.”
He did not elaborate on Norn’s condition as he requested an adjournment until the afternoon to provide time for him to get “medical documentation” from the health-care system. Cooper said he had been trying to get more information about Norn’s condition from a doctor, specifically, whether Norn would be able to attend the hearing.
The matter was adjourned to 2 p.m. Barclay advised Cooper when the session resumed he would have to explain why Norn wasn’t there.
When the hearing resumed, Cooper had no more proof of Norn’s condition, so a visibly annoyed Barclay declared that the hearing would go on without him.
He said he had arrived at the “inescapable conclusion” that his non-appearance was a “further delaying tactic.
“This hearing will now proceed,” he said. “I was going to say ‘good morning, but it’s now afternoon.’”
Barclay said Cooper had written 19 letters in the lead-up to the hearing, many of them asking for a delay, some calling for the disqualification of his special counsel (another lawyer helping Cooper with the hearing) and for Barclay’s own removal.
Norn is under scrutiny for possibly violating a code of conduct applicable to MLAs. Norn is accused of not self-isolating for a full 14 days upon returning from Alberta in April and “misleading the public regarding his compliance with the self-isolation order.”
Barclay, who described his role as a “fancy word for judge,” is limited to making recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. The possibilities include taking no action, reprimanding Norn, fining him as much as $25,000, suspending him for as long as a month, or declaring his seat vacant.
These actions would have to be taken by MLAs.