It's disturbing to think that no record was kept of an investigation conducted into the behaviour of Ken Boessenkool, Premier Christy Clark's chief of staff who resigned in September because of an incident at a bar after a golf party. The absence of a paper trail violates basic human-resources procedures and flies in the face of logic.
Boessenkool, a high-profile Alberta Conservative who had been hired eight months before to bolster the B.C. Liberals' right wing, allegedly conducted himself improperly toward a female government staff member after the Sept. 7 golf tournament.
The incident was reported to Clark, who announced on Sept. 24 that the incident had been reviewed according to public-service guidelines. She said she met with Boessenkool to discuss the matter, and he submitted his resignation.
In the two weeks between the incident and Boessenkool's resignation, the matter was considered by the premier and passed on to Lynda Tarras, head of the Public Service Agency, which handles personnel matters for the government. Tarras investigated the matter and reported back to the premier.
"After that work was done, I made a decision and I accepted the resignation of my chief of staff," Clark told reporters. "When I sat down with Ken, I knew that he would have to resign, and he agreed that that was the right course to take."
She said the investigation was conducted according to Public Service Agency guidelines.
In response to freedom-of-information requests from the Vancouver Sun, the B.C. government said no records of any kind were kept. The premier's office said everything was conducted verbally.
That would have human-resources managers all over the country clutching their chests in horror and gasping for breath. One of the fundamentals of investigating an employee for possible discipline is to make notes of every conversation and build a paper trail that will stand up in any tribunal.
HR experts are taught this maxim early: "A short pencil is better than a long memory." To appear before a judge or an adjudicator without records is simply unthinkable.
That Boessenkool's conduct merited termination seems obvious in hindsight, as he took responsibility in his letter of resignation. Nothing further is likely to come of it.
But it exposes the province to liability. An employee coerced to resign can sue for constructive dismissal (although it's highly improbable that Boessenkool would do that). Without records of any kind - diaries, handwritten notes, emails, text messages, memos - an employer wouldn't stand much chance of winning the case.
It's hard to believe no notes were taken, no messages sent, no written information exchanged in a two-week investigation, unless there was a deliberate and conscious decision not to put anything in writing. It's human nature that civil servants would be leery of freedom-of-information requests, but the public's business should be conducted transparently.
The wise course of action would be to exercise discretion in keeping notes, not to refrain completely from writing anything down.
Certainly, the identity of the person who was allegedly the target of Boessenkool's unwanted attentions is not something to be made public, and there may be other sensitive information properly kept confidential.
Ken Boessenkool's conduct, whatever it was, is almost irrelevant now. It was a minor scandal, a mere blip in history.
Of deeper concern is the apparent disregard for proper procedures and lack of prudence in how the incident was handled.
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