Last November, the Judicial Affairs Office (JAO) shut down for three weeks.
Nobody knows why.
Former Judicial Affairs Manager Brandon Tyrrell was fired on Nov. 6, 2018. On Nov. 10, JAO staff members received an email from Director of Human Resources Joe Palubiski stating that “due to recent events, the AMS [had] decided to shut the Judicial Affairs Office for the day.”
The email also stated there would be no access to the office or any materials inside the office until further notice.
Dakota Johnston works as a deputy for the JAO. The day after Tyrrell was terminated, she showed up to the office along with a few other staff members to find the locks had been changed. They were also blocked from their email accounts.
She said she wasn’t expecting the shutdown “at all,” let alone for it to last three weeks.
“There was no explanation,” she said in an interview with The Journal. “The lack of communication was a little bit ridiculous, especially considering it was obviously a hard time. All of us had a personal relationship with [Tyrrell].”
Johnston said Vice-President (University Affairs) Munro Watters and AMS Secretary Bronwyn Woolhouse held a meeting with the JAO’s staff on Nov. 12 about the shutdown.
The AMS declined multiple requests for an interview, citing the ongoing external investigation into AMS President Miguel Martinez as reason for no comment.
“Due to the nature of the ongoing external investigation, the AMS will not be answering any questions or providing any interviews on issues surrounding the Judicial Affairs Office,” Communications Director Rachael Heleniak wrote in an email to The Journal.
Because Tyrrell was terminated on the basis of a confidentiality breach, Johnston said she thinks the University and the AMS were “trying to get their ducks in a row.”
“I think that for them this was the easiest way to make sure the deputies weren’t touching anything they weren’t supposed to [and] nothing was being removed from the office,” she said.
In an email to The Journal, Queen’s Community Relations and Issues Manager Mark Erdman wrote the “changes that were introduced at the Judicial Affairs Office were an internal Alma Mater Society matter” and all questions should be directed towards them.
He added, however, the Society did inform the University on the day they first closed the office and that the JAO was unable to accept new Non-Academic Misconduct cases until a new manager was in place.
A few hours before the Nov. 12 staff meeting, Johnston met with Woolhouse in the AMS offices in the JDUC.
According to Johnston, Woolhouse said she and Watters had been unable to locate confidentiality agreements in the JAO and asked Johnston both to re-sign her confidentiality agreement and whether she knew where the original documents were.
Johnston told Woolhouse she thought they were in a locked drawer in the JAO, who later discovered they weren’t there.
According to Johnston, Woolhouse and Watters asked staff members again at the meeting a few hours later about the location of the original confidentiality agreements.
“They asked all of us in the meeting where they were or if anyone knew where they were,” she said. “All of us didn’t [know] and figured they would probably just be in the drawer, [and] obviously they figured out they weren’t.”
According to Johnston, the locked drawer where Watters and Woolhouse allegedly tried to find the confidentiality agreements is in a cabinet where case files are also kept. Because no JAO staff members were able to access the offices during its three-week closure, both Watters and Woolhouse would’ve had total access to the case files unsupervised.
“I’m pretty sure the Judicial Affairs documents are supposed to be under lock and seal at any given point in time unless there’s an extenuating circumstance that permits an outside body,” Johnston said. “Even then, I’m pretty sure it’s at the discretion of the Judicial Affairs Manager if an outside individual is able to see those documents.”
Johnston said all JAO staff members were required to re-sign their confidentiality agreements and redo privacy training before resuming their positions and regaining access to their emails.
A few weeks later at the Nov. 29 AMS Assembly, both Johnston and Tyrrell addressed the missing confidentiality agreements.
Tyrrell expressed his concern that any missing documents might affect the integrity of the AMS external investigation into Martinez.
“Once the office was taken over by myself and Secretary Woolhouse, the only things we touched were the confidentiality agreements from that office,” Watters said at Assembly. “No other documentation was removed or tampered with.”
She added that it was her understanding that Woolhouse had the confidentiality agreements in her office and “they [had] not been misplaced or lost.”
According to The Journal’s recording of the Assembly, Johnston stood up and pointed out to Woolhouse that she had told JAO staff members in a meeting the confidentiality agreements had been lost. This statement was not included in the Society’s Nov. 29 Assembly minutes, which are prepared by Woolhouse.
Instead, the minutes only state Johnston asked Woolhouse if she’d lost the confidentiality agreements. According to The Journal’s recording, Johnston did not ask this question at any time.
Former Judicial Affairs Manager Tyrrell was investigating AMS President Martinez before he was terminated. According to him, a lot of the information leading up to his termination came from Woolhouse, meaning the absence of a confidentiality agreement between the two would allow her to provide the President with information.
“If I was relying on her as sort of a crutch to navigating the complex case of Miguel, and then she was using [the] information that I would tell her, then go to the President and inform him on what I was doing in my office, that’s a huge breach of that agreement between [Woolhouse] and myself,” he said in an interview with The Journal.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that’s the reason why it went missing.”
Tyrrell added his files on Martinez were in his office at the time of his termination. He also said there’s no paper trail that the confidentiality agreement at some point existed, but he’s certain that it did because that’s “procedure for how the Judicial Affairs Manager is able to share information with the secretary.”
“That happens every single year.”
This article mistated the date of Tyrrell’s firing. It was Nov. 6, not Nov. 2.
The Journal regrets the error
All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.