An ethics complaint lodged against Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson by NWT Assembly Speaker Frederick Blake Jr. may be on its way to fizzling out.
In correspondence obtained by NNSL Media, David Jones, Northwest Territories integrity commissioner, appears to lean toward Jacobson’s position, which is that he didn’t break any rules.
According to a Sept. 23 complaint sent to Jones, Blake alleged that Jacobson broke the code of conduct for MLAs by not declaring a conflict of interest during an Aug. 24 in-camera meeting of the Board of Management, a committee of MLAs whose responsibilities include the operation of the Legislative Assembly apparatus and its employees, including the clerk’s office.
The meeting was held to discuss a challenge to the Steve Norn inquiry. Norn’s lawyer, Steven Cooper had filed an application to halt the inquiry based on “conflict and institutional bias.”
Blake said that an affidavit filed by Jacobson in the Norn inquiry concerning the workplace conduct of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly should have been followed by his recusing himself from the August meeting.
Both Blake, as chair, and Jacobson, as a regular member, sit on the board of management.
According to Blake, Jacobson sat in on the August in-camera meeting involving assembly law clerk Sheila MacPherson briefing the board about Cooper’s application.
Blake said that the other board members – Caitlin Cleveland, Diane Archie, Paulie Chinna as well as the Speaker – had no knowledge of Jacobson’s affidavit for the Norn defence. As a result Jacobson should have left the meeting based on the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act.
“At no time during the Board meetings did Mr. Jacobson declare a conflict. Rather, he participated in the board’s discussion with respect to its legal options.
“The board’s concern is that by aligning himself with Mr. Norn’s application, and not disclosing the interest to the board, Mr. Jacobson had access to confidential and privileged legal advice and communications with respect to the very matter with which Mr. Jacobson was involved.”
In a Dec. 3 response from Jones, however, the Integrity Commissioner wrote that after corresponding with Jacobson, Blake’s complaints appeared to have no substance because the board of management meeting took place the morning of Aug. 24 and Jacobson filed his affidavit later that same afternoon.
“In his response, Mr. Jacobson explains both a) the circumstances in which he was requested by Mr. Norn’s legal counsel, Mr. (Steve) Cooper, to prepare the affidavit in question; and b) the timing of that request, namely in the afternoon of Aug. 24, 2021, after Mr. Jacobson’s participation in the board of management’smeeting that morning,” Jones wrote.
“Regardless of the wisdom of Mr. Jacobson providing that affidavit, or its contents, I am provisionally of the view that he was not in a conflict of interest situation during the Board of Management meeting that morning and therefore there was no reason for him to recuse himself from that meeting.”
Jones finished the missive by asking if the BOM had any comments on his provisional position. The BOM held an in-camera meeting at the rise of the House on the last day of the current sitting of MLAs, Thursday, Dec. 9. No details on what was discussed were available before press deadline.
Jones declined comment on the ethics complaint when reached by email on Dec. 7.
“I do not comment publicly on my work as Integrity Commissioner, except in the reports which I make to the Legislative Assembly,” he wrote.
Jacobson declined comment when reached Dec. 9.