One of Canada’s top criminal defence lawyers is the new administrator of the “dysfunctional” Peterborough Police Services Board.
Mark Sandler was appointed on Friday, said a spokesman for the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).
Sandler practises law in Toronto.
On Thursday, the OCPC filed a damning report on Peterborough’s police board, stating that the board was so dysfunctional it needs an administrator to step in.
The OCPC said the dysfunction constitutes an emergency. Sandler’s appointment came into effect Friday and will hold until July 1.
Chris Popovich, a spokesman for the OCPC, said Sandler will be paid by the OCPC – not by the city.
Popovich said the lawyer will work part-time and be paid by the hour; the total cost for his services will only be known when the work ends.
Sandler couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
He is well-known for representing police officers, such as former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino (whose assault charges were dropped, a year ago, with Sandler defending him).
Sandler may be in Peterborough on Monday – or he may choose to participate in a special police board meeting via videoconference.
There’s a special meeting of the police services board at 4 p.m. to officially receive the orders from the OCPC.
The administrator has the authority to make any changes to the police board’s procedures. He can also suspend any or all of the board’s members.
The OCPC stated in its orders that the board has been “in a state of perpetual crisis” since 2015.
The orders state that the board has been struggling with a series of “highly public disputes”, including a contractual dispute between the board and the chief and deputy chief of police.
The chief and deputy chief sought a year’s compensation pay apiece from the board after a reorganization of the police force – even though they kept their jobs.
Although the dispute’s been settled, nobody involved will say whether they got the $486,000 they were seeking.
Bob Hall, chairman of the police board, said he disagrees that the board is in disarray.
Hall said wasn’t giving an official statement on behalf the board; he was speaking as an individual member.
“This is a very high-functioning board of competent individuals who’ve settled a very contentious, private contractual matter,” Hall said. “I don’t see an emergency at all.”
When asked how this is an emergency situation, Popovich said the order speaks for itself.
“During the course of the current and ongoing investigation, it became apparent to the OCPC that there is an ongoing dysfuntion of the Peterborough police services board, and that this dysfunction constitutes a real and ongoing impediment to police services in Peterborough,” it states.
“This dysfunction, together with its effect of undermining public confidence in the delivery of police services, constitutes an emergency under subsection 24(1) (of the Police Services Act).”
The order points out how the board has failed to complete a series of routine duties such as finalize a business plan.
The board also hasn’t established a policy to indemnify the chief of police for legal costs, says the order.
Chief Murray Rodd did not wish to comment for this article.