Vancouver, B.C. (Canadian Press) – A senior Mountie has been reprimanded and will lose 10 days pay for having a sexual relationship with a fellow officer, but the head of an RCMP disciplinary panel suggested he could have faced much worse.
In his ruling, Supt. John Reid says that for unknown reasons, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson did not face disciplinary action for abuse of authority, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination and lying to a superior officer.
“If this board were to sanction Staff Sgt. Pearson for totality of his conduct over the period in question there would be no hesitation to demote him to the rank of corporal,” Reid said while making his ruling.
But Reid repeatedly said he didn’t have the more serious allegations in front of him, so “it would be contrary to the principles of natural justice” to use them as factors in determining Pearson’s punishment.
Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens, the top Mountie responsible for British Columbia, said he can’t comment on why more serious charges weren’t levelled against Pearson.
“Decisions were made at the time based on a number of factors which would have included the information he had before him, legal advice, provisions in the RCMP Act, and precedents,” he said in a statement.
He also said whether he wanted to or not, he was not able to add to the charges against Pearson because the one-year time limit for mounting such charges had passed by the time he was appointed to his job late last year.
During a lengthy hearing last year, the three-person RCMP disciplinary panel heard Pearson engaged in an affair with Const. Susan Gastaldo, which included having sex in a police car during work hours and exchanging intimate messages over an RCMP BlackBerry.
Both officers were found guilty of the offences.
Gastaldo had claimed that Pearson had used her fragile mental state to coerce her into the affair.
In a civil lawsuit, Gastaldo claims she suffered a number of traumatic and violent incidents as part of her job and developed an anxiety disorder which Pearson, as her supervisor, was aware of.
She eventually took a medical leave, and Pearson promised her an easy transition when she returned to work and also assured her he could arrange a schedule for her that would accommodate her childcare concerns.
Gastaldo claimed in her lawsuit that Pearson persisted in contacting her while she was on medical leave, ostensibly to discuss her eventual return to work. Instead, her suit claims that he used his position to eventually manipulate her into an affair. At one point, he raped her, her suit claims.
The suit was filed last August and was amended on Jan. 20. A statement of defence from Pearson was not available in the online court files.
The discipline panel concluded the affair was consensual.
But Reid said it’s clear Pearson abused his authority.
“The abuse of authority was taking those meaningful meetings and turning them into a personal relationship, once again abuse of authority was never alleged by the appropriate officer.”
The loss of 10 days pay for Pearson will amount to about $3,900.
But Reid said the panel was gravely concerned that when Pearson was confronted by a superior officer about his conduct, Pearson replied “it was simply flirting.”
Pearson has two weeks to appeal.
Gastaldo will receive the panel’s decision on her conduct in two weeks.
Callens said in his statement he is reviewing active files to “determine if the allegations and sanctions being sought are consistent with my view and expectations regarding member conduct and discipline.”
“Going forward, I have been clear that accountability is my top priority.”