Commissioner-in-love: RCMP boss draws on his own life experience for rules on workplace relationships
by David Akin
As RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson wrestles this fall with new policies on workplace relationships, he’ll be able to draw heavily on personal experience.
Paulson’s first marriage, in 1984, was the result of a workplace relationship and his second marriage, this summer, grew from an extramarital affair he began with a senior bureaucrat who worked on RCMP issues in the government department that supports Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office.
Now, as Paulson circulates a draft policy within the force to govern Mountie-to-Mountie romances, some wonder if his own life experience will make it difficult for him to enforce new rules.
“It certainly raises a cloud of suspicion when he is tasked with drawing up these rules about office romances,” said Darryl Davies, a criminology professor at Carleton University. “He can’t do it in a credible way.”
Moreover, Paulson’s marriage this summer to Erin O’Gorman may raise some conflict-of-interest issues given that, as their relationship evolved from a professional one to a romantic one, he worked on national security files and she worked for the National Security Advisor to the prime minister in the Privy Council Office on files that would have involved the RCMP.
A spokesman for the Privy Council Office dismissed suggestions of a conflict-of-interest.
“There is no story here. These public servants abide by a clear set of ethical standards,” said PCO spokesman Raymond Rivet.
Paulson would not agree to an interview but, in response to questions e-mailed to his office, he replied, “In the context of workplace relationships, it is important to consider whether or not there is a power imbalance. In my case, there was none and there was no real or perceived conflict of interest. Colleagues were well aware of our relationship. If you knew more about the situation, you would write differently.”
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the personal lives of senior officials. No New Democrat or Liberal MP responded to requests for comment.
But Janet Merlo, a former Nanaimo, B.C., constable and 19-year veteran with the RCMP, believes that the move to write up new rules for Mountie love is more a public relations exercise than a substantial stab at the problem.
Merlo filed a civil suit earlier this year alleging repeated sexual harassment from her fellow male Mounties.
“They cannot pass any type of legislation that will stop workplace relationships in the RCMP,” Merlo said. “It will not work. This is Paulson’s little attempt to make it look like he is doing something. He is not addressing the problems of persistent mistreatment of women.
“The only way the policy is going to help anybody is to have a clause in there that states that once you begin a new relationship with someone in the work place, you must notify RCMP management as well as your spouse,” Merlo said.
Paulson met his first wife, Frances Manktelow, while both were in the Canadian Forces in B.C. Paulson, who trained in the military as a pilot, “was asked not to renew his contract and was released,” according to an affidavit filed by Manktelow in their divorce proceedings, the same month he married Manktelow in 1984. Paulson did not respond to a question about the circumstances of his departure from the military.
That marriage appeared to begin to unwind – again, according to Manktelow’s affidavit — when O’Gorman and Paulson participated in a civil service management course in 2008 that took the two of them to 15 different countries over the course of a year. Asked specifically when his romantic relationship with O’Gorman began, Paulson did not respond.
In any event, both Manktelow and Paulson told the court that by July 1, 2009, Paulson had moved out of the matrimonial home. Manketlow said that in October, 2010, Paulson moved in with O’Gorman.
Before Paulson moved in though, O’Gorman left her job working on national security files in the PCO to take up a mid-level executive job at Transport Canada, according to the PCO, where she remains today. Paulson continued to move up the career ladder, becoming commissioner in November 2011, the same month he began divorce proceedings from Mantkelow.
The divorce took effect on June 17 this year, and Paulson and O’Gorman were married two months later.
“I am keenly aware of the risks workplace relationships have on people and organizations,” Paulson said in his e-mailed statement. “When we are done consulting, we will implement a workplace policy to protect both the employees and the organization.”
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