Valarie Findlay: Wolves, Sheep and the Inconvenience of Sheep Dogs
“As source in a media story this past summer, I was aware of the rough road ahead: A sworn officer had revealed information on an active undercover operation targeting a long-time municipal politician for bribery.” …Valarie Findlay
Show me how to lie,
You’re getting better all the time.
And turning all against the one
Its an art that’s hard to teach.
Another clever word
Sets off an unsuspecting herd.
And as you step back into line,
The mob jumps to their feet.
Where fact and perspective meet, our personal values churn both of these, binding them into what we believe to be right and fair. Beyond common law and more than moral platitudes, these complex, emotional judgments help us to separate the ‘good guys’ from the bad, the law-abiding from the law-breaking and those who pull ‘sheep’s clothing’ over their wolf-like intentions, as they stride into the light of public interest.
It’s not uncommon for the public to be dazzled by sleight of hand that leaves us doubting our intuitions, even in the face of facts – it happens all of the time. The unknowing – or those not wanting to know – are transformed into complicit shills, bit players in the theatrics of the corrupt. Everyone knows that following the crowd is easier than standing up, or worse, standing alone.
Not a fan of acting on a single vector of information, balancing the material and immaterial with historical actions or patterns and intuition is critical. These are the pillars of anecdote, facts and the pathology of behaviours. The simplicity of when someone shows themselves to you, believe them is not lost on me, but it is rarely enough to grind the gears of public opinion.
(Above LiveLeak video: Ottawa Police Association President Matt Skof talking about Chairman of the Ottawa Police Service Board and alleging, quiet clearly, that Eli El-Chantiry is involved in Organized Crime. Note: none of his allegations have yet been proven true.)
Ottawa Police Association President Matt Skof first denies, then admits secret recordings are of him
As source in a media story this past summer, I was aware of the rough road ahead: A sworn officer had revealed information on an active undercover operation targeting a long-time municipal politician for bribery. The local politician was Ottawa Police Services Board Chair, Eli El-Chantiry. The ‘officer’ was Ottawa Police Association president, and former Ottawa Police Services (OPS) sergeant, Matt Skof. The receiving party was me.
When Matt informed me that El-Chantiry was the target of a bribery play, I had no intention of acting on the information. But that changed when I was told the operation was disbanded without cause, charges nor explanation and that emails existed between El-Chantiry, his secretary and others coordinating the bribe.
The only statement I will make with regard to Matt with any certainty is that he grossly misjudged my principles. Under no circumstances would I hide serious assertions that an elected official was involved in criminal activities and that the investigation stood up on that information was seemingly quashed.
As the information was socialized by others, it was not exactly a shock to a tight circle of cops and myself. For three years, I had been the conduit for many sources of testimony and material evidence on El-Chantiry’s conduct – and then I had my own. I had no reason to doubt Matt’s accuracy, truth and veracity of the information. In instances prior to this, any information shared on El-Chantiry and others was corroborated by those who were directly involved. Matt, in my opinion, acted in good faith, as I did.
Over the months that followed, much was underemphasized that would have lent context.
Firstly, the information provided by Matt was not coerced, as some have suggested. It also occurred over several months with increasing detail and cohesion. To that and on the matter of why the calls were recorded, this was an automatic function on the cell phone that Matt often called me on; calls made to my other numbers were not recorded.
There was no grand entrapment scheme and there was no personal benefit to me. The recordings were all but forgotten, until it was indicated to me that the operation was apparently “buried” – keeping in mind, this operation was executed and funded in a way that kept it shielded from the executive.
“I am one hundred percent convinced that Eli El-Chantiry is full out involved in organized crime, no doubt…” Ottawa Police Association President Matt Skof talks about Ottawa Police Service Board Chair Mr. Eli El-Chantiry.
Secondly, there was no manipulation or misrepresentation of the recordings, as claimed by Matt. The original files’ were substantiated and verified by a number of factors: time/date stamps, call logs showing phone numbers and length of calls and correlation of information from the conversations to material elements, such as emails. The integrity of the audio files was maintained and verified as such.
Many asked why Matt would share such sensitive information with me. Obviously, I know why, but this is a question for Skof to answer, not me. From our many conversations over the years on El-Chantiry’s conduct, I can presume he was dually disgusted and overjoyed that this may signal the end of El-Chantiry’s fourteen year reign as Ottawa-Ward 5 Councillor and nearly ten years on the Ottawa Police Services Board.
Additionally, many have asked whether Matt and I had a “romantic” relationship. We did not – it was not romantic in the slightest. Others shifted the focus to his error in judgement, and in some cases, mine. To this, I will vigorously state that on the face of the information and its serious implications, the necessity for the matter to be independently investigated is crucial. I stand by that one-hundred percent.
In this situation, assuring the integrity of our police services and upholding the public’s interests is paramount; there is nothing that anyone can do or say to shift that narrative. That information could sit on the corner of a desk for years gathering dust, but its criticality would not be diminished.
In addition to the above, a lot had occurred before this story hit the media. Aside from wide spread discrediting and friends at OPS being warned not to associate with me, I received not-so-random death threats and was informed that El-Chantiry had been gathering information on me, as evidenced in emails I had obtained. I was both bemused and encouraged that I had become such a problem for a very small minority.
Breaking the Silence
More importantly, in the spring of 2018, after confrontations with Matt the matter, I broke my silence and took my concerns to several governing bodies. With no action taken, in June 2018, I scribed an email to Chief Bordeleau, a few of his senior staff and blind-copied provincial and federal officials and detailed my concerns and the information conveyed to me, without using names.
Minutes later, the same email was forwarded to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commissioner via his executive officer, confirming its receipt through a brief phone conversation and a reply email. Bordeleau also replied promptly and directed me to his acting executive officer.
“On the face of the information and its serious implications, the necessity for the matter to be independently investigated is crucial. I stand by that one-hundred percent.” …Valarie Findlay
Within days, we had a phone conversation during which I sent him a secure link to a shortened recording of my first conversation with Matt. Here, I’ll clarify that only that file was shortened (from an hour to five minutes), the pitch was altered so that Matt’s voice could not be immediately identified and certain details were omitted to avert serious consequences to those involved. The full length audio files were not shared with anyone except authorities.
During the conversation with Bordeleau’s acting executive officer, I underscored my commitment to cooperate and that I would hand-off all of the original, full length audio files, providing a formal investigation was actioned. That was not entertained and the conversation was redirected to revealing the identity of the informing party.
As I refused to disclose identifying information outside an investigation, it was suggested that I “think about it” over the weekend. While there was nothing to think about, the following week I was informed via email that the officers involved had been identified, spoken with and there was no basis for Matt’s account (since then, I have been informed of the opposite). The remaining audio files were not requested or listened to and the matter was closed.
The story hits the News Media
When the story did hit the media, I watched people, who I once considered rational, turn into back-biting protectionists who raced to cover their interests at the cost of the public’s. In the other camps, as they all took their stand, the anger was palpable – and the lies and backlash were interesting. As accusations and judgments flew, mostly at me, I was unfazed and remained (mostly) respectfully silent.
Shortly after, a chief’s complaint was initiated on the origin and release of the recordings – which was already known – there was no mention of the serious information on the undercover play towards El-Chantiry.
Meanwhile, the only surprising part of Matt’s response to the media was his choice of words – he and El-Chantiry had their differences but this was a clear attempt to discredit the Police Services Board Chair. As Hell froze over, Matt also denied it was his voice in the recordings, which he later retracted, in part.
The OPP had confirmed that it was not within their mandate or the scope of the chief’s complaint to investigate the information. So weeks later, I walked into OPS’ Huntmar detachment, swore a statement on the information provided to me by Matt on the conduct of El-Chantiry and handed over a USB of several full length recordings – the same recordings that had been refused by OPS months prior.
Multiple Investigations Fading into the Mist?
Within days, the report was privatized and was only accessible by the acting executive officer who Bordeleau had assigned to the matter back in June. Then, the file was shipped off to the investigating OPP officer in the Professional Standards section who had taken carriage of the chief’s complaint. Last week, OPP informed me that they had sent back the statement and audio files to Ottawa Police Services.
Currently, Ontario Civilian Policing Commission (OCPC) and two other governing bodies are in receipt of the files and an accompanying complaint.
Maybe its true that people only hear what enforces their views but I think we are all reluctant to lift the covers for fear of what we might find. But you are either here to do good for this world or you are here to do good for your world. Frankly, either is fine, providing you not a public servant and you are honest and transparent with your intentions, allegiances and in your game. That’s just good sportsmanship.
I am sure my counterparts – Kelly Donovan, Angie Rivers, Paul Manning, Donald Best and the many others focused on ethics in policing and politics – would agree. They have worked tirelessly to expose corruption on mountains of facts, not assertions, and have repeatedly asked for impartial investigations to benefit the public interest. Just like I have.
“So where does this end? That’s hard to say. While I don’t have overwhelming faith in the governing processes or overarching authorities, I do believe that, in due time, everyone runs out of rope, irrespective of your power and position. At some point, the herd breaks from the sick and diseased, leaving it to be picked apart by the vultures.”
And where does all of it end? It does not. For as long as there are ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, there will be sheepdogs whose innate behaviour is to protect the safety and sanctity of the herd. You don’t have to be a cop to do that. But you do have to be a good one to agree with it.
Now there’s something in your way,
And someone is gonna pay.
But if you can’t get what you want,
It’s all because of me.
* The above is written without prejudice and in good faith; it reflects my opinions only and does not reflect those of any individuals or associations I am or may be affiliated to. Valarie Findlay
News Stories about the Matt Skof allegations against Eli El-Chantiry
July 24, 2018 Ottawa Citizen: Leaked audio recordings of man alleged to be police union boss prompts OPP investigation
July 30, 2018 Ottawa Citizen: Police union head admits to being voice on parts of leaked audio tapes
July 30, 2018 OttawaMatters.com: Police union boss admits it’s his voice on leaked recordings
September 17, 2018 Ottawa Sun: Ottawa cops take legal action against officer who posted leaked audio of union president Skof
Ottawa Police Association Twitter: @ottawapaca
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October 23, 2018