Second ethics investigation could be nixed if Don Meredith booted from Senate

If Don Meredith is kicked out of the Senate or resigns, a second investigation into allegations of workplace harassment may never see the light of day.

The Office of the Senate Ethics Officer confirms that any ongoing probe is automatically halted if the subject is no longer a member of the upper chamber. 

"If a senator ceases to be a senator while there are ongoing inquiries pertaining to that senator ... the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code) provides that those inquiries are permanently suspended," Louise Dalphy, an administrator and ethics advisor in the ethics office, said in an email.

The Senate's ethics officer, Lyse Ricard, has been looking into allegations of workplace harassment involving Meredith since early 2016. The investigation was launched after other members of the Red Chamber noticed an unusually high staff turnover rate in Meredith's office. 

No formal complaints have been filed against Meredith on this matter, and no allegations have been proven.

The harassment investigation began while Ricard was already in the middle of another probe involving Meredith, which included allegations he had a sexual relationship with a young woman before she turned 18.

In March, Ricard released her findings, saying that Meredith violated the ethics code, after he "drew upon his weight, prestige and nobility of his office" to "lure or attract" the unidentified teenage girl. 

Since Ricard's report was published, there have been loud calls for the senator to resign.

Meredith has rejected demands to quit, but his colleagues are looking at legal options to kick him out for good.

Exceptions to the rule

The Senate's ethics committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue, and Meredith has been invited to attend.

There is no timeline as to when Ricard's harassment investigation will be completed, but it is not expected to be finished before the April 4 meeting.

Dalphy said there is one way the investigation can continue, and that is if the Senate's ethics committee makes a request for the probe to be completed. 

"In such a case ... the committee would have to consider any representations from the former senator, from any senator who initiated the inquiry, and from the Senate ethics officer before making its decision in this respect."

CBC News has reached out to members of the ethics committee, but no responses were received. 

Meredith's lawyer William Trudell declined comment "out of respect for the Senate process."

Accountability for the Senate

The NDP says it wants to see the investigation completed and the results released to the public. 

The NDP is concerned that if the investigation is not complete, the public may never know what actually happened in Meredith's office, and if employees were subjected to unfair working conditions.

"This has the potential to get swept under the rug," said Nathan Cullen, the NDP's ethics critic.

"If it can happen here, it can happen again, because there are no remedies and there is no accountability for senators."

The Senate has been working to improve its image following the 2013 expense scandal, and Cullen worries members may want this controversy to go away, rather than determine what transpired.

"This goes beyond Meredith, it speaks to the essence of the Senate," he said.