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Questioned on conflict, Solicitor General Heed steps out of debate

Solicitor General Kash Heed denied he had a conflict of interest when he introduced Bill 7 amending the act that governs complaints against police officers, but said he will excuse himself from further debate on it.

“While it is my strong belief that there are no legal impediments to me fulfilling my responsibilities with respect to Bill 7, I am anxious that attention not be diverted away from the important substantive provisions of this legislation,” Heed said in a letter to conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser.

“For that reason and out of an abundance of caution, I believe it would be preferable for me to forgo further participation in the debate or votes that will take place in the Legislative Assembly with respect to Bill 7,” he wrote.

New Democratic Party solicitor general critic, Mike Farnworth, had written to Fraser asking for an opinion on whether Heed was complying with the Members' Conflict of Interest Act when he introduced the Police (Misconduct, Complaints, Investigations, Discipline and Proceedings) Amendment Act, 2009 on Sept. 17.

Heed, a former West Vancouver police chief, had himself been the subject of a complaint but resigned before the matter was concluded. The current act does not allow complaints against retired officers, so Heed's resignation ended the matter.

Fraser's Oct. 21 response to Farnworth says he met with Heed to discuss the issue and had conversations about it with attorney general and government house leader Michael de Jong.

“As a result of those conversations a resolution of the matter was reached and the Solicitor General has agreed that in all of the circumstances he would not participate further in any debate or votes in the Legislative Assembly with respect to Bill 7,” he said.

Fraser's letter is silent on the question of whether or not Heed was actually in a conflict of interest. He did not return a call by posting time.

“Out of an abundance of caution I've removed myself from that debate,” Heed told reporters. “We have to recognize the fact that there's politics being played here.”

Farnworth said Heed could have been affected personally by the bill. “I think there's a conflict in terms of him dealing with this bill in his capacity as Solicitor General,” he said. “The right thing for him to do is to not have anything to do with the bill.”

The NDP wants the amendments that allow complaints against police officers who retire or resign to be made retroactive, he said.

Another cabinet minister will introduce second reading of the bill.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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