Police board paid $800K for Elsner probe, fees

The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board spent more than $810,000 on legal fees and two investigations into former police chief Frank Elsner.

The figure includes $170,024 for legal fees paid on behalf of Elsner.

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It does not include the $269,661 Elsner received in salary and benefits during the time he was suspended with pay, including pension-fund contributions from April 29, 2016, to May 9, 2017.

When those costs are combined, Victoria taxpayers spent a total of $1.08 million for the investigations, legal fees and Elsner’s suspension.

The police board released a statement Friday saying it and Victoria Police Chief Del Manak are committed to creating and maintaining a workplace environment where bullying and harassment are not tolerated and where there is always a safe outlet for officers and staff to report concerns.

The board said it wanted to recognize members of the department “for their professionalism, resilience and fortitude” during Elsner’s lengthy discipline process.

Last month, Elsner was found to have committed eight acts of misconduct, including three of workplace harassment, under B.C.’s Police Act.

Although Elsner resigned in May 2017, his service record will now show that he was demoted to the rank of constable and dismissed from policing, said police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe.

Expenditures were incurred under the category of arbitration and litigation in the police board budget, with the approval of the board.

On Friday, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps noted the expenses took place over a three-year period, and were necessary.

“When somebody in a public leadership role abuses their power, doesn’t act with integrity and doesn’t act ethically, those things need to be investigated. And those investigations are expensive,” said Helps.

The final costs total $811,027 — $788,185 in relation to the matter and $22,842 for legal services provided to the department or employees of the department.

The board paid $77,468 for an internal investigation conducted by lawyer Patricia Gallivan, which resulted in a letter of reprimand being placed on Elsner’s file.

That investigation was overturned by police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe, who ordered an external investigation handled by RCMP Chief Supt. Sean Bourrie and the Vancouver police, which cost the Victoria police board $222,757.

The board’s legal fees cost $273,032. It also spent $36,084 on communications consulting. Close to $7,000 was spent on an item withheld under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

The total represents only expenditures for, or reimbursed by, the Victoria Police Department, the police board said.

It said it is unable to provide expenditures for other parties or agencies not directly reimbursed by Victoria Police Department.

In July 2016, retired Victoria police staff sergeant Darren Laur filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, alleging that the police board used money from the operational budget to cover Elsner’s legal fees and to hire a media crisis consultant without getting approval from Victoria or Esquimalt council.

His complaint is still being investigated.

Helps said no money was taken from front-line policing.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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