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Ex-cabinet minister, Liberal donor on panel reviewing Heed special prosecutor

A former Liberal cabinet minister and a Liberal Party donor sat on the Law Society panel that considered disciplining the special prosecutor who exonerated former Solicitor General Kash Heed before revealing his law firm had donated to Heed's campaign.

The panel reviewing Terrence Robertson's conduct included former Kamloops MLA Claude Richmond, accountant Peter B. Lloyd and lawyer Richard Stewart. Richmond served as a speaker of the legislature and as the minister of employment and income assistance, but did not run in the 2009 election.

"Mr. Richmond is in a unique position to bring home to Mr. Robertson in a clear way the very serious consequences of his wrong doing," said the Law Society's Chief Legal Officer Deborah Armour. "It's not about politics, it's about the government."

The purpose of the review was to make sure Robertson understood what he did wrong and the damage he did to the special prosecutor system, she said.

As special prosecutor looking at allegations from Heed's election campaign, Robertson recommended charges against three people but not Heed. He then resigned from the case saying he'd realized a donation his law firm had made to Heed's campaign could be seen as a conflict. A second special prosecutor has since reopened the case, but has not yet said whether Heed will be charged.

The society decided Robertson had "failed to meet the expected standard that requires a lawyer to disclose to his client previous connection to the parties in a matter," a Law Society announcement said. The Society was satisfied Robertson regrets his actions, understands what he did wrong and has made steps to make sure it won't happen again, it said.

The file was closed with no further action.

Since the client hiring Robertson was the government, it made sense to have someone like Richmond who served in government on the review panel, Armour said.

"I don't accept that explanation," said NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston, who is also a lawyer. He wondered if the Society reached that conclusion when Richmond was appointed to the panel or only after the fact when his role was questioned. "It has that odour to it," he said.

"Claude Richmond is well recognized as a highly partisan Liberal," he added. The Law Society should have chosen someone else for the review panel, he said. "The perception is not one that I think needed to be created."

The panel also included Peter B. Lloyd, who Elections B.C. records show was an officer in a company that gave $7,500 to the Liberal Party in 2008.

Armour said the Law Society took the unusual step of having two appointed representatives on the conduct review committee because of the "important public aspect" of the case. "We wouldn't typically have two. The significance of all this is really about public confidence, protection of the public interest," she said.

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

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