'Culture of fear' at LU when it comes to talking with auditor general, court documents say
Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said in court documents that Laurentian University has created a "culture of fear" among its staff when it comes to speaking with her office.
Lysyk made the comment in a factum with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice filed Nov. 12. She is taking LU to court next month in an attempt to settle a dispute regarding which documents her office can access.
Lysyk is conducting a value-for-money audit for the Ontario government to gain insight into why the university filed the institutional version of bankruptcy in February. She is looking at operations between 2010 and 2020.
Laurentian officials say they have cooperated with her office in all areas except when it comes to privileged documents, which covers such items as correspondence between the university and its lawyers, or other documents in which LU receives a legal opinion.
Lysyk argues that the Auditor General Act of Ontario explicitly gives her the right to access any document when she is conducting an audit. But Laurentian argues the act gives them the option of handing over the documents, but does not compel them.
In her Nov. 12 factum, Lysyk doesn't mince words.
"Laurentian University has created a culture of fear to talk to the OAGO (Office of the Auditor General)," she wrote.
"The Laurentian University situation is important to everybody. The value-for-money audit is not to impede Laurentian University, it is to help the university."
In addition to finding out what happened, Lysyk said her job is also to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
CTV News contacted Laurentian for a response to the auditor's comments and received this statement:
"Laurentian has been cooperating with the Auditor General’s audit. The university has authorized and encouraged all staff to participate in interviews with the auditor general. We have also granted her office direct access to our entire financial database, enrollment system, as well as all requested, non-privileged documents."
And in his response to the court filing last month, LU president Robert Haché argued the university has the option, not obligation, to disclose the documents.
"The Auditor General Act allows, but does not require, an entity under audit to disclose privileged information to the auditor general," Haché wrote.
"The act provides that, if such disclosure occurs, it is not a waiver of privilege, but, again, does not entitle the auditor general to such disclosure. Of course, the university may choose to disclose privileged information to the auditor general, but that decision is the university’s to make.”
Lysyk described that argument as "absurd."
She said the act imposes a secrecy obligation on her office when it comes to privileged information. Why would the act require that if the intent wasn't for them to access those files?
"These safeguards demonstrate that the Legislature intended to pierce the privileges," she wrote.
Read Lysyk's entire factum here.