Musings —07.11.2010 08:25 PM—
Marin gave contracts to friend starting in 2001
July 11, 2010
During his 12 years as watchdog over the Canadian military and Ontario government, Andre Marin has paid close to a quarter of a million dollars to a friend and mentor to help him do his job as ombudsman.
Contracts and invoices show Marin outsourced important office functions to Ottawa law professor David Paciocco, who advised on investigations and wrote portions of several of Marin’s reports.
Federal documents, obtained by the Toronto Star, show at least $84,000 paid to Paciocco while Marin was military ombudsman between 2001 and 2005. They also shed light on the office tasks Marin outsourced to his friend.
Last month the Star reported that as Ontario ombudsman, since 2005, Marin has given two contracts worth at least $141,000 to Paciocco to spice up Marin’s reports exposing government problems.
At the time of the article last month, just days after Marin’s re-appointment and amid concerns he was mismanaging the provincial office, his spokesperson refused to provide documentation of Paciocco’s work, and Paciocco did not comment.
Paciocco again did not respond to calls and emails from the Star seeking comment on federal contracts that have now been released.
“Professor Paciocco’s expertise was one of many resources used to ensure that the work of the military ombudsman’s office was of the highest quality and legally unassailable,” said Marin’s Ontario Ombudsman spokesperson Linda Williamson.
Like Paciocco, Marin is a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario…
In the documents released to the Star, Paciocco was first retained by Marin in 1999 to give legal opinion on the new office’s powers. But between 2001 and 2005, Paciocco provided a variety of other services. As he was working for a government agency, taxpayers covered the cost.
Paciocco was paid to draft Marin’s statement in his department’s 2003-2004 annual report. On an invoice dated April 7, 2004, Paciocco billed $3,852 for “consultation, advice and drafting of the Ombudsman’s statement in the Annual Report.” That statement, adorned with Marin’s headshot and written in first-person, was eight pages long. The invoice also shows Paciocco drafted the report.
In February 2003, Paciocco billed $5,350 for various services relating to a military ombudsman’s report called “Crazy Train” – the result of a probe into why a military float in a pre-Grey Cup parade seemed to mock soldiers diagnosed with mental injuries. Paciocco billed for reviewing and revising the draft report, conference calls, “preparation of investigative protocol” and “assistance with opening statement.”
…he also re-drafted a report on a controversial soldiers’ meal allowance. His work on this report was part of a July 2003 invoice for $6,179. Marin said in his annual report that it was “my report” and that it was “compelling enough to lead the national news.”
Marin had the authority to hire Paciocco and in one instance approved the extension and increased value of a contract. Paciocco’s hourly rate has been blacked out of the federal documents released to the Star.
In one invoice that shows just how much office work was outsourced to Paciocco, the lawyer itemized the tasks done for Marin between July 26 to Aug. 4, 2004. The name of the report is blacked out in the federal documents. Paciocco wrote that Marin told him to “work ahead on themes I have developed,” wrote and completed the report, “including executive summary and report summary.”
A spokesperson for current military ombudsman Pierre Daigle said his office “does not have anyone on contract to draft annual or special reports or any type of public statements.”
Details emerged a month ago of a toxic atmosphere at the Ontario Ombudsman’s office, with current and former employees complaining they were mistreated (which Marin has vigorously denied). Marin was subsequently re-appointed.
Then the Star reported similar complaints were made by staff at his former posting with the military. A federal report done after his term as military ombudsman found he left in his wake a dysfunctional workplace rife with complaints and 150 staff departures from the small office during his tenure.
It was also reported that at the provincial ombudsman’s office, Marin sometimes used a highly paid civil servant to pick up his dry cleaning and monitor the maid cleaning his downtown condo. Marin’s office said at the time that the executive’s job included visiting Marin’s condo to watch over the property but did not involve dry cleaning pickup.
Obtaining detailed financial information on Ombudsman office contracts has been difficult, though Marin states on his website that “the Ombudsman is all about accountability and transparency.” Earlier this week, his office refused to provide contracts and invoices of Paciocco’s work for the Ontario Ombudsman.
Paciocco, a high profile academic and lawyer, told a dinner crowd gathered last year to honour Marin that he has known the “brash” Ombudsman since Marin graduated from law school and “strutted” into the Ottawa Crown Attorney’s office to take his first job. “I have known him since he was a boy’s head sticking out of a man’s suit. I have known and worked with André Marin for more some 20 years – which happens to be his entire professional career,” he said. “I like to think that Andre fancied me as something of his mentor.”
But a Marin spokesperson said in early June that he and Paciocco “do not now and have never socialized together.”
Marin’s regular use of a consultant appears at odds with his public statements that “generally we don’t have to pay for expertise.” Marin was questioned by a government committee in 2008 on the work his office does and a member asked if he made use of outside consultants. Marin said it “happens from time to time, but it’s relatively rare.”