Head judicial officer fired after investigating AMS president

Society exec Martinez denies inquiry’s role in firing

From left to right: Munro Watters, vice-president (university affairs), Miguel Martinez, president.

This story was updated with a statement from the Chair of the AMS Judicial Committee at 1:27 p.m., Nov. 9, 2018. 

After investigating the conduct of AMS President, Miguel Martinez, the Society’s head judicial officer was fired on Tuesday morning.

Two weeks before his departure, Brandon Tyrrell, the former AMS judicial affairs manager, was investigating a complaint against Martinez stemming from his conduct at Queen’s Model Parliament (QMP) in January of 2018.

The complaint alleged Martinez’s sanction agreement with the University Conduct Office gave him preferential treatment.

According to a Judicial Affairs Office written disclosure made to The Journal, Martinez allegedly interfered multiple times during the course of Tyrrell’s investigation, causing it to stall.

In an interview on Nov. 8, Martinez denied interfering with Tyrrell’s investigation in “any way that policy doesn’t allow me to.”

On Oct. 21, the Judicial Affairs Office disclosed its concerns to Alex da Silva, the rector,  and The Journal. Mikela Page, the chair of the AMS Board of Directors, was informed on the afternoon of Oct. 22. 

When contacted, da Silva declined to comment. Page also didn’t comment in time for publication. 

In the disclosure, Tyrrell wrote he was hopeful the details of his investigation would be placed in good hands before he was “arbitrarily dismissed” from his role “out of a reluctance to cease the investigation into Martinez’s behaviour.”

In an interview a week before his dismissal, Tyrrell said he feared for his job as a result of pursuing the investigation of the complaint against Martinez. 

Martinez denied the investigation played any role in Tyrrell’s termination.

On Oct. 25, Tyrrell closed his investigation into the complaint about Martinez, citing an inability to proceed based on the president’s alleged interference. 

On Nov. 6,  Munro Watters, AMS vice-president (university affairs), informed Tyrrell he was dismissed in a meeting. He was given pay in lieu of two weeks’ notice and asked to leave immediately. Tyrrell didn’t receive a reason for his dismissal when he inquired.

“They wanted to sever any possible action,” Tyrrell told The Journal after his dismissal. “I think the fear there was, if I were given two weeks, then there would be sufficient time for me to take action to fight against [the firing].”

Following Tyrrell’s dismissal, Watters announced she and Bronwyn Woolhouse, the AMS secretary, would assume Tyrrell’s responsibilities while another manager was chosen. 

While Watters had been aware of the investigation into her co-executive since Oct. 23, she didn’t recuse herself from overseeing the Judicial Affairs Office. 

While it’s not a violation of policy, Tyrrell said an executive member taking over the Judicial Affairs Office is a “huge concern for the legitimacy of the AMS judicial system.”

The investigation 

The complaint sparking the Judicial Affairs investigation resulted from Martinez’s alleged conduct at QMP in January of 2018—before his appointment as president-elect.

During Tyrrell’s investigation, the Judicial Affairs Office discovered Martinez was sanctioned under Part G of the Queen’s Student Code of Conduct, for allegedly “grabbing a Student Constable’s wrist” during an event at QMP.

Student Constables filed two separate complaints against Martinez that weekend, though one was later dropped. 

In an interview, Martinez addressed the allegations with The Journal.

“While I never admitted to grabbing a Student Constable’s wrist, I did mention in that brief that I’d been sanctioned for grabbing a Student Constable’s wrist,” he said. 

When the Judicial Affairs Office interviewed the complainant, the person alleged “genuine harm” stemming from Martinez’s actions at QMP.

Martinez’s violation—which would normally result in a ban from all events sanctioned by student constables—was processed by the University’s Conduct Office, which reached an agreement with the president-elect.

According to Tyrrell’s disclosure to The Journal, while Martinez was sanctioned by the Conduct Office, the case manager also ruled that Martinez’s executive status requires him to enter and exit AMS pub services from “time to time.”

Brandon Tyrrell in front of Douglas Library. (Journal File Photo). 

Martinez’s name wasn’t placed on the official list of banned patrons, but his case manager was obligated to inform student constables whenever he’d be entering AMS pub services. Student constables were informed Martinez would be performing service checks in AMS pub services, which would be limited to 15 minutes.

In the disclosure, the Judicial Affairs Office alleged mandating student constables to enforce Martinez’s service checks meant the University’s Conduct Office infringed on student constables’ “ability to fulfill their duties set out in Part 10 of the [AMS] Constitution,” which includes ensuring the safety of patrons and event staff. 

In an interview with The Journal, Martinez disputed the agreement was in violation of the AMS Constitution. “My presence there does not put the patrons or event staff safety at threat, nor does it put any section of the constitution at threat,” he said. “I would argue that both event staff and patrons would argue the same.”

Tyrrell also alleged the agreement between Martinez and the Conduct Office allowed Martinez to be treated differently than any other student who’d been banned from pub services in the face of a sanction. 

Martinez denied Tyrrell’s accusation, saying, “I would strongly suggest that me attending an event for 15 minutes to make sure everyone is doing all right, and then going home, because I can no longer be a part of that event, is not personal gain.” 

The University disputes the representation of its staff in Tyrrell’s disclosure, saying it was “factually wrong” in a statement to The Journal. 

“We have every confidence in the Student Conduct Office, which operates with professionalism and with the utmost integrity,” the statement read.

Alleged interference

In the Judicial Affairs Office disclosure sent to The Journal, it’s alleged Martinez took steps to undermine or interfere with the Judicial Affairs investigation into his conduct.

On Oct. 16, the day after Martinez sat down with Tyrrell for an official interview as part of the investigation, the Judicial Affairs Office received a Freedom of Information request (FOI).

The complaint being investigated by Judicial Affairs was conducted under the AMS Policy Infringement Protocol (PIP)—a separate judicial system that deals with alleged violations of the AMS Constitution and AMS Society Policy.

The FOI requested specific files located on the AMS file server. According to Tyrrell, the documents requested were so specific only an individual with previous knowledge of the Judicial Affairs Office could have requested them.

“I think the goal behind the person who submitted the [FOI] request to my office, was to have the underlying motives for putting together the PIP system come to light,” Tyrrell said. He added the documents could have been used to discredit the PIP system as a whole, if disclosed. 

In an interview, Martinez denied all knowledge of why the FOI request was sent and said he had “nothing to do with” the request. 

As the Judicial Affairs Office is a branch of the AMS, which is a private corporation, Tyrrell had no obligation to answer the request. 

On Oct. 18, Bronwyn Woolhouse, the AMS secretary, contacted Tyrrell to allege he was in a conflict of interest in conducting his investigation. 

AMS Judicial Policies and Procedures mandate that when a conflict of interest is declared, the secretary is charged with reviewing the materials of an investigation to determine if a conflict of interest exists. If a conflict is found to exist, the secretary takes over the investigation.

According to a hand-written amendment to the disclosure, Woolhouse told Tyrrell she’d brought forward the allegation of conflict of interest as a result of “consistent pressing” to do so by Martinez. 

As a result, Tyrrell refused to disclose the contents of his investigation to Woolhouse, fearing it would be compromised.

In an interview on Nov. 7, Woolhouse softened her previous statement that she was pressed by Martinez to take over Tyrrell’s investigation, on the basis of a conflict of interest. 

“The pressure I felt came from my internal feelings regarding my position and my professional relationship and was definitely exacerbated by my interactions with [Martinez], which were not malicious in nature,” she said. 

On Nov. 8, Martinez said in an interview he initiated the alleged conflict of interest inquiry by Woolhouse, claiming Tyrrell had a personal and professional bias against him—something which Tyrrell denies.

Martinez contested pressing the Secretary to take over the investigation. 

“I would argue I never really pressed the secretary, and if the secretary ever did feel pressed, then I apologize for that. It was never my intention,” he said. 

In his disclosure, Tyrrell also alleged that Martinez requested Seema Sidhu, the chair of the AMS Judicial Committee, to recuse herself if Tyrrell referred the case to her for a hearing.

When reached for comment on Nov. 6, Sidhu did not respond in time for publication. In a statement submitted after the original publication of this article, she denied Martinez requested she recuse herself.

"I said I would [recuse] myself as soon as any such case reached the Committee," she wrote. "I immediately and independently made this decision upon hearing that an investigation was underway."

Martinez said he spoke with Sidhu while the investigation was ongoing, but added he “never once” asked her to recuse herself. “She offered to [recuse] herself because [of] her personal friendship with me,” he said. 

The complaint

In an interview on Nov. 7, Woolhouse attempted to cast doubt on the validity of the complaint against Martinez, claiming she “wouldn’t be surprised” if it had been fabricated.

“In my eyes, and the eyes of people who I’ve discussed this with, and reviewed the facts, it seems to me that it’s been driven by Brandon.”

In an interview on Nov. 8, Martinez too also questioned whether a complaint had actually been made.

The Journal was able to independently verify the existence of both the complaint and the complainant. 

Tyrrell’s dismissal

In a statement provided to The Journal, Munro Watters said Tyrrell violated his employment contract and the Agency Agreement between the AMS and the University, which provides authority to the Society’s Non-Academic Misconduct system.

According to Watters’ statement, she began reviewing the Agency Agreement with the University on Nov. 2 to assess whether Tyrrell’s disclosure to The Journal violated the agreement.

“I identified that a confidential disclosure of this nature violated the Agency Agreement as well as the employment contract of the individual in question,” Watters wrote in a statement. “A violation of the Agency Agreement could result in the University revoking the AMS’ involvement in the NAM system as a peer-based administrator.”

According to Tyrrell, Martinez’s case was being investigated under the AMS Policy Infringement Protocol (PIP) system—not NAM. 

“The PIP system is independent of the university’s NAM system, and there are therefore no obligations set out under the Agency Agreement pertaining to the facilitation of Mr. Martinez’s case,” Tyrrell wrote in a statement on Nov. 8.

Miguel Martinez in Wallace Hall on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Iain Sherriff-Scott).

“Further, all information gathered during Mr. Martinez’s PIP investigation was obtained independently from the NAM Intake Office and the University.”

On Nov. 6, Watters informed the University of the alleged confidentiality breach and the corresponding dismissal of Tyrrell. 

In response, Tyrrell wrote, “not only was there no contractual breach under the Agency Agreement, but the Agency Agreement also does not stipulate that the AMS must inform the University of the employee who was terminated as a result of the alleged breach.”

Tyrrell also wrote that, while his employment contract had a confidentiality clause, the Judicial Policy and Procedures has a “notwithstanding clause” which allows, “in certain scenarios, the AMS Judicial System may be compelled to break confidentiality.”

Those scenarios include “the acquisition of information which leads to an understanding that harm will take place to an individual or group in the future ... [and in such] scenarios, the Judicial Affairs Office ... would be compelled to contact the proper authorities.”

Tyrrell claimed his disclosure was justified under the Judicial Policy and Procedures notwithstanding clause.

When asked if there should be extra protections from future dismissal of Judicial Affairs managers, Tyrrell agreed. When asked the same question, Martinez declined.  

Corrections

This article incorrectly stated the date the AMS Board of Directors were informed of the investigation. It was Oct. 22, not Oct. 21. 

The Journal regrets the error.

November 12, 2018

This article incorrectly spelled Mikela Page's name as "Mikayla Paige." The article has been edited to correct the error. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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