Fredericton seeks to recoup $200K from fired police officer Jeff Smiley

1 / 2
Fredericton seeks to recoup $200K from fired police officer Jeff Smiley

The City of Fredericton plans to fight to recoup an estimated $200,000 in salary and benefits from fired police officer Jeff Smiley.

Smiley is "no longer an employee of the Fredericton Police Force," Chief Leanne Fitch announced on Friday.

She issued a statement in response to a Court of Appeal ruling Thursday that restored an arbitrator's 2015 decision to fire the former constable for misconduct.

The city will now seek reimbursement of the nearly two years' worth of salary and benefits paid to Smiley since the original decision in December 2015, said chief administrative officer Chris MacPherson.

Smiley was suspended from the force with pay during the legal challenges.

He declined to comment on Friday.

"This has been a long and complicated process," the chief said.

"I'd like to publicly state that cases like this do not in any way reflect on the excellent work done by the many other men and women of the force, who faithfully go to work every day, to serve and protect the citizens of this community," she added.

Arbitrator Cedric Haines found Smiley guilty on Dec. 2, 2015, of four counts of breaching the code of professional conduct, involving domestic violence and firearms-related offences.

Smiley sought a judicial review and on Nov. 18, 2016, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Judy Clendening quashed the decision, saying it was unreasonable and that Haines hadn't given sufficient reasons for the sanction.

The New Brunswick Police Commission subsequently appealed, arguing Clendening had erred in her decision.

On Thursday, a three-justice panel agreed in a 23-page decision written by Justice Bradley Green.

Must be professional off duty and on

The commission "takes comfort" in its interpretation and application of the Police Act "when the most senior court in New Brunswick commented in this matter on society's expectations of how police officers must conduct themselves," executive director Steve Roberge said in a statement to CBC News.

Most notable, he said, were Green's comments that a police officer must act "at all times" — off duty and on duty — in a manner that will not bring discredit on his or her role as a member of a police force.

"In my opinion, where the Code states, for example, that a member of a police force is 'to act at all times,' it means exactly what it says: at all times," Green wrote.

The commission was also "reassured" the court found that, "contrary to Mr. Smiley's assertion, 'a member of a police force who engages in the act of domestic violence can be found to be in violation of the standards of behaviour expected of all members, and therefore be found to have engaged in discreditable conduct,'" said Roberge.

"This judgment also clearly explained society's expectations that police officers must 'exercise sound judgment and restraint in respect of the use and care of a firearm, meaning any and all firearms, including those which may be the personal property of the member,'" he said.

Smiley was not criminally convicted but was found guilty by the arbitrator of:

- Discreditable conduct for allegedly committing domestic violence upon his common-law partner "on a number of occasions over the period of [their] relationship.

- Counselling another officer not to disclose that he had firearms in his possession while bound by an undertaking to turn over all firearms.

- Improper use and care of firearms for having an expired licence.

- Improper use and care of firearms for having a 12-gauge pump action shotgun loaded with two shells in the magazine.