Ethics ruling vetted through key players before release

·4 min read

Ethics and integrity commissioner Shauna Sullivan Curley gave Mark Spidel, former Deputy Minister of Health and Dan Campbell, Clerk of the Executive Council a chance to read and suggest edits to the final draft of her review in which she stated, Mr Spidel failed to act in full compliance with executive division conflict of interest policy.

“There is some divergence of opinion on whether a preliminary report should go to the person who could be most affected by the outcome,” Ms Sullivan Curley told The Graphic in an email message. “So I did do some research on the issue and considered the best course of action. In the end, I decided that providing a draft report to Mr. Spidel gave me one final opportunity for corrections, clarification or additional evidence, and it was fair process for Mr. Spidel.”

Ms Sullivan Curley said, if she had received substantive feedback, she would have considered it along with all of the information found in the investigation and made a decision about potential changes to the draft based on the feedback, and her actions were in line with her training and reading she has done on conducting reviews and investigations.

“The final report was mine, and mine alone,” she said.

It appears as though Mr Spidel did not respond with any suggestions to change the final draft and Mr Campbell only suggested fixing minor typos. The Graphic cannot verify what changes were made to the draft as a copy was not provided in the package with the final review document obtained through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request.

Government announced to the public they shuffled Mr Spidel out of a deputy minister role the day after Mr Campbell confirmed by email that he had read the draft, February 10.

Premier Dennis King publicly said Spidel’s departure was unrelated to the review.

Neither the Department of Health and Wellness nor the premier’s office have provided The Graphic with public information about what, if any severance pay Mr Spidel received once shuffled out of his deputy minister position or if he is still on the provincial payroll in any capacity.

As requested by Mr Campbell, on behalf of the executive council, Ms Sullivan Curley’s review focused on Mr Spidel’s involvement with the mobile mental health project. Mr Spidel’s brother, Matthew Spidel, was involved with the development of the project in his operations management role with Island EMS which he has held for eight years from the onset of the project.

Ms Sullivan Curley was not asked to review Mr Spidel’s involvement with any other Island EMS related projects or dealings such as agreements to fund Medavie in order to provide Covid-19 related services.

Nor was Ms Sullivan Curley asked to review Mr Spidel’s involvement in the province’s process to create an ad-hoc legal document to extend its contract with Island EMS for up to two years, rather than renegotiating the base contract which expired for the first time in 15 years in March 2022.

Outstanding auditor general recommendations included implementing more clear and current performance standards into the contract. These have not been fulfilled.

Mr Spidel reported to former Minister of Health James Aylward and then Ernie Hudson through the periods of time where Ms Sullivan Curley reported he was “intensely” involved in the mobile mental health project against advice to recuse himself completely.

Neither Minister Aylward, who went on to act as Minister of Transportation in February 2021, then to lose his position as cabinet minister in July, Minister Hudson, Premier King or his principal secretary Adam Ross have answered whether they were aware of Mr Spidel’s recusal from the mobile mental health project or the extent of his involvement.

In previous interviews with Minister Hudson, he assured The Graphic repeatedly that Mr Spidel had recused himself from matters involving Island EMS out of an abundance of caution.

Ms Sullivan Curley made a number of recommendations to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. Neither the Department of Health and Wellness nor the premier’s office have responded to answer if the recommendations have been implemented despite multiple requests over the course of a week.

The final report was submitted to Clerk of the Executive Council, Mr Campbell on February 28th this year.

Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic