An RCMP staff relations representative says he’s concerned the police force isn’t picking up the legal tab for a former New Denver Mountie accused of submitting a bogus expense claim.
“This is another in a growing list of cases where our members have not had their legal fees approved on duty-related matters that end up before the courts,” Staff Sgt. Tom Almasi told 103.5 The Bridge.
Cst. Kelly Barrie is charged with one count each of fraud and false presences after filing an expense claim for a hotel stay paid for by her then-fiance, Cst. Sam Nakatsu.
During Barrie’s trial this month, court heard Nakatsu submitted a claim for the same day, but the defence contended it was a simple mistake. The judge is expected to hand down his verdict October 9.
Almasi says traditionally, RCMP officers have always had legal indemnification — a lawyer provided to them at the force’s expense. But he cited a string of cases in Kelowna, Kamloops, and Surrey where they have been turned down.
“It’s just been about the last year we’ve seen this,” he said. “What makes this [case] most troubling is she was never really denied.”
Almasi said Barrie was asked for more information, which he provided to RCMP brass five weeks before the trial. However, he has not received a contract to pass on to her lawyer.
He said in similar cases, lawyers have quit, throwing the court process into disarray.
“They have to cancel dates, in some cases repeatedly, and it causes delays in an already overburdened system,” Almasi said. “Lawyers walk away because they don’t know if they’re going to get paid.”
However, Barrie’s lawyer, Richard Hewson, took on her case, and the trial proceeded as scheduled even though “time will tell how much and if he’ll get paid,” said Almasi, who represents over 1,200 RCMP officers in southeast BC.
Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, a senior media relations officer for the Mounties in BC said in an email that he couldn’t speak specifically about Barrie’s case, but explained the RCMP follows a Treasury Board policy, adopted in 2008, that covers all government employees.
One section of that policy lays down three basic eligibility criteria. In deciding whether Crown servants should receive legal assistance, it’s determined whether they “acted in good faith, did not act against the interests of the Crown; and acted within the scope of their duties or course of employment with respect to the acts or omissions giving rise to the request.”
Barrie worked in the West Kootenay from 2009 to 2011, and is now posted to Williams Lake.