OTTAWA - RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson decried Wednesday the leak of an internal report that raised concerns about the prime minister's security detail, calling it "unlawful."
And Paulson also conceded it might boil down to a case of payback against the officer in charge of the unit.
"I suppose it might have been. I don't know what it was. It was wrong, and it was frankly unlawful to leak that document because it was a protected document," Paulson told reporters.
"We're dealing with that in a fair, balanced, purposeful way and the underlying need here is to correct behaviour, not to punish people."
The leak of the management report to Radio-Canada this week thrust a normally low-profile unit into the spotlight. Members of the prime minister's office past and present sprung to the defence of Supt. Bruno Saccomani, saying he had actually brought improvements to the unit.
The management review included interviews with 41 per cent of the 116-member unit, and said a majority of members reported problems with their boss including intimidation, favouritism, discrimination and harassment.
"Mr. Saccomani is a great technician and a great officer, but there's some management questions and we need to get to the bottom of that," said Paulson.
There was also the stark suggestion that all this tension might have put Harper's safety in jeopardy.
"Not being able to focus on the duties because they are anxious in the presence of the (Officer in Charge) adds risk to the safety of the prime minister, his family, others in their presence, employees and the general public," the report says.
But figures close to Harper emerged to dispute the review, and its leak, explaining that Saccomani rocked the boat inside the force by trying to tighten up security around the prime minister. They paint an unflattering picture of the unit before he arrived.
One former Harper staffer who contacted The Canadian Press, said the unit used to be considered a "cruise ship" post for Mounties at the end of their careers.
"Prior to his assignment to (the unit), it was treated as a 'cruise ship' for close to retirement senior RCMP officers, who seemed to enjoy travel to exotic locations and were often lax about security," the staffer said on condition of anonymity.
"I wouldn't be surprised if professional jealousy and — or — resentment at ending a sinecure played a role in the complaints against him."
"Bruno is a superb protective officer. He wasn't in charge when I was in PMO. But he was on the detail and was superb," said former chief of staff Ian Brodie.
"I have seen a big improvement in the tightness of (the unit) since I left."
Guy Giorno, another former chief of staff, has bluntly called the report and subsequent discipline of Saccomani "payback" by RCMP brass who play hardball.
Giorno said Saccomani "ruffled feathers" of his superiors by trying to bring improvements to the detail. For example, he said foreign travel was a constant source of friction with his superiors.
"Supt. Saccomani was always concerned whenever security arrangements were less secure than those prevailing in Canada," Giorno said.
"The RCMP brass was typically more concerned with trying to curry favour with our foreign hosts."
Giorno has also suggested the report itself is flawed, because it was led by a civilian and not a police officer.
Harper's current director of communications, Andrew MacDougall, retweeted one of Giorno's Twitter posts on the subject Wednesday.
Following the management review, Saccomani was assigned a coach, a mentor and a statement of responsibilities and expectations. An officer of his rank was also brought into the unit to help improve communications. Saccomani also apologized to staff, according to the RCMP.
Paulson said Saccomani was not disciplined, but rather the "subject of a management review."
But complicating the matter is the fact the RCMP is already struggling to deal with a reputation of not taking grievances and sexual harassment cases seriously.
Paulson has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the harassment complaints, saying the force was "failing" its members. He and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced changes to the way the RCMP handles grievances and complaints, making it easier to discipline or fire offenders.