Federal judge rules Kevin MacAdam hiring at ACOA inappropriate

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 17, 2014

Kevin MacAdam

©Guardian file photo

A Federal Court judge has ruled that senior officials at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency acted inappropriately when they hired former Conservative provincial cabinet minister-turned federal bureaucrat Kevin MacAdam.

Justice Richard Mosley said evidence provided in the investigation launched by the Public Service Commission in 2011 amply demonstrates personal favourtism by then-ACOA P.E.I. vice president Pat Dorsey when he hired his former associate of provincial politics for the plum $130,000 job.

“Barring a more senior level appointment or lucrative position in the private sector, this could not have been a softer landing for a former political staffer looking for a more secure position close to home,” Mosley stated in his decision, delivered earlier this week.

The ruling means MacAdam will lose his job at ACOA, if he does not appeal. A spokesman for ACOA couldn’t comment on whether MacAdam is still employed by the agency.

The issue stems from a complaint to the Public Service Commission by the Atlantic Liberal caucus in 2011 expressing concern over MacAdam's appointment, given his political ties to the Conservative Party.

He worked as a staffer in Peter MacKay’s ministerial office from 2006 to 2010, then afterward as deputy chief of staff to Keith Ashfield.

MacAdam was hired as director general of operations for ACOA P.E.I. in February 2011 after a rushed selection process that saw the position advertised externally, rather than internally, and without the usual federal requirement for fluency in both official languages.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) revoked MacAdam's appointment after it determined through its investigation that senior officials who hired MacAdam acted inappropriately.

Dorsey and Kent Estabrooks were ordered to take ethics courses and lost their ability to appoint staff for three years.

MacAdam, Estabrooks and Dorsey later filed for a judicial review of that decision.

Mosley dismissed this appeal with his ruling this week.

The judge questioned many of the actions taken during the course of events that led to MacAdam’s hiring.

He singled out Dorsey as the one who lead the charge to smooth the way for his former colleague in the Pat Binns administration to land the job at ACOA.

“The evidence amply demonstrated the exercise of personal favouritism by Mr. Dorsey to assist a former associate in P.E.I. provincial politics find a soft landing back home in a secure and senior public service position,” Mosley states.

The Director General of Operations position at ACOA P.E.I. was a new one, created by consolidating two vacant positions into one.

Dorsey played a key role in getting one of those positions vacated, the Public Service Commission investigation found. He convinced Brian Schmeisser, who had been at ACOA for 22 years, to go on secondment to the provincial government. After Schmeisser’s departure, the Director General of Operations position was created, absorbing his responsibilities.

It was also Dorsey’s decision to advertise the position externally, rather than trying to find someone within an internal pool of bilingual candidates.

It allowed MacAdam to apply without first having to resign his job in Keith Ashfield’s office.

“The evidence indicates that the ACOA officials acted to protect (MacAdam’s) employment status by ensuring that he did not have to first resign in order to qualify,” Mosley wrote.

The judge noted there was no indication MacAdam acted inappropriately.

In a fair competition, apart from the bilingual requirement, MacAdam might well have earned the appointment, Mosley stated.

“But any likelihood of that outcome does not answer the commission’s conclusion that improper conduct helped him get the job.”

Mosley concluded that he is “satisfied that the decision to find improper conduct was reasonable in the sense that it was justified and intelligible and within the range of possible, acceptable outcomes defensible in respect of the facts and the law.”

With a file from The Canadian Press.