Monday, August 24, 2015

Duffy scandal: The Troublespotter who did not read line 5 of the email

Chris Troublespotter Woodcock
Imagine you hold one of the most powerful offices you can hold in a democracy such as ours, and your job is this:

“My job was to spot trouble, try to identify it and come up with a strategy for dealing with it,” Mr. Woodcock testified.

And one day you spot some trouble brewing:

He said the Duffy affair landed on his radar in February, 2013, as stories appeared in the media about Mr. Duffy’s expenses related to his long-time house in Ottawa.
“Suddenly, we were encountering a bunch of unwelcome stories about members of the government caucus who were claiming expenses that, on the surface, they did not appear to be entitled to,” Mr. Woodcock said. “It was viewed as an entitlement issue and viewed as just not consistent with our approach to governing and our approach to expenses.”

Mr. Woodcock went on to work with Mr. Duffy to develop lines to provide on a background basis to reporters, but he also discouraged him from doing media interviews that would feed further stories on the matter.

Now imagine this scenario: you get a five line email about this heap of trouble, and you deal with it, but you miss something:

Despite his central role in the crisis-management strategy, Mr. Woodcock said he found out only in May, 2013, that Mr. Wright had paid $90,172.24 to cover the expenses of Mr. Duffy. In particular, Mr. Woodcock said he did not read the second paragraph of an e-mail in March, 2013, in which Mr. Wright said: “For you only: I am personally covering Duffy’s $90K.”

“I actually didn’t see that line until late June, 2013, and I was quite surprised when I saw it,” he testified.
Mr. Woodcock said he only saw the first paragraph of the e-mail, which answered his question on the appropriate response to questions about whether the Conservative Party had paid back Mr. Duffy’s expenses, and then moved on.

Mr. Woodcock said he continued to deal with the matter as if Mr. Duffy had personally paid his own expenses, pointing to an e-mail exchange in April with Mr. Wright that suggested he thought Mr. Duffy had paid the money.

Imagine that! You are so busy you miss that one very important line.

And so this means that you don’t know that Nigel Wright, the Chief of Staff to the prime minister, was personally paying some ninety thousand dollars to senator Duffy, to allow Duffy to repay contested expenses.

You must be mortified, because, although you are the chief troublespotter for the PM, you missed some vital information that would almost certainly have spoiled the PM’s day.

In fact, for almost a year and half, the mess haunts your boss, and now you find yourself in the witness box, as a crown witness, in the criminal trial of senator Duffy.

Mortifying, ain’t it?

But not half as mortifying as having the barracuda barrister defending the senator, Donald Bayne, doubt your story that you somehow, inexplicably, missed that one sentence:

His lawyer, Donald Bayne, started a tough cross-examination of Mr. Woodcock on Monday afternoon, asking him why he did not feel the need to inform Mr. Harper about the payment from Mr. Wright, or even the Conservative Party’s willingness earlier in the controversy to pick up the tab when it was believed to total about $30,000.

“Your claim is just like Ray Novak’s: ‘Gee, I got the e-mail, it’s only to me, but golly, I’ve never read it,’” Mr. Bayne said.

Still, cheer up, Mr Chris Troublespotter Woodcock: you have a few more hours in the witness box with barrister Bayne tomorrow. Perhaps between the two of you you can manage to sort things out so that the lawyer understands how easy it is to miss stuff.

Even in short emails.

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