BRITISH COLUMBIA

Female Mountie Who Had Sex In Police Cruiser Won't Be Further Disciplined

10/24/2014 02:04 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - The RCMP has quietly revealed that it won't pursue further disciplinary action against a female Mountie who said her superior sexually assaulted her in a police cruiser.

Const. Susan Gastaldo's lawyer said Friday that the way the force issued a statement on its decision suggests it's trying to hide something.

Walter Kosteckyj said the statement clearing his client was buried on an RCMP website instead of being prominently displayed like the first news release in 2012, when she was accused of fabricating the assault allegations in an attempt to hide the truth from her husband.

The case was investigated by Vancouver police, which concluded the allegations were unfounded, and prompted an RCMP code-of-conduct review.

An RCMP review board eventually disciplined both Gastaldo and Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson for what was characterized as a consensual relationship.

The statement posted on the British Columbia RCMP website said the decision in the case of Gastaldo was made in September 2013, but those details only came to light this week.

"She has been asking for the last year that this decision be published in the same way that the original decision was published," Kosteckyj said. "Quite frankly, we couldn't find it anywhere and we thought it hadn't been published."

He said Gastaldo's reputation was damaged by the statement that remained on the RCMP site for two years, preventing her from returning to work "in an unblemished way so that people knew that she had been cleared of this wrongdoing."

A disciplinary hearing heard that Gastaldo had a sex with Pearson in a police vehicle between April and August in 2009.

Gastaldo maintained she was sexually assaulted and compelled into a relationship with Pearson because he had power over her as the orchestrator of her return to work in April 2009 after she had been on sick leave for several months.

Pearson's defence was that he and Gastaldo had a friendship that became sexual.

An adjudication board originally found Gastaldo guilty of conducting herself in a disgraceful manner bringing discredit to the RCMP for falsely accusing Pearson of sexual assault and sending numerous sexually explicit text messages to the same officer.

Gastaldo, who was to be docked seven days' pay, appealed the board's ruling claiming that after rejecting Pearson's advances she was forced into a sexual relationship but the board accepted Pearson's claims that the relationship was consensual.

The board decision was reviewed and overturned in June 2013 by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, who said the board was biased on the issue of consent and that Gastaldo's arguments in support of her defence were ignored.

"I find that the board's breach of the appellant's right to procedural fairness invalidated the board's entire decision," he said in his written decision.

The police statement revealed recently said assistant commissioner Craig Callens decided in September 2013 not to pursue further discipline against Gastaldo and the charges against her were withdrawn.

Gastaldo remains on stress leave but the RCMP's latest decision has paved the way for her to return to work though it's not known if she will be back to the same job in Vancouver, Kosteckyj said.

The RCMP has long been criticized for its male-dominated culture of harassment and bullying, with seniors members of the force, including Paulson, saying efforts are being made to create respectful work environments.

Kosteckyj said he believes the highest level of the RCMP is trying to make changes, but the statement about his client suggests transparency is still not a high priority for the force.

"I think this is going to be a learning curve for the RCMP, realizing that they would have been better off printing this thing on Susan Gastaldo back in 2013 rather than it coming out the way it has. It seems that they're trying to hide what should have been in plain view.

"They just don't look good," Kosteckyj said, adding Gastaldo is still proceeding with a civil lawsuit against the RCMP.

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