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Mountie who had sex with superior keeps job, but docked 7 days pay

VANCOUVER - An RCMP panel says a female officer who had an affair with her boss has little chance of rehabilitation, is no longer suited to police work and should be medically discharged, yet she's allowed to stay on the force.

Supt. John Reid, chairman of the disciplinary panel hearing the case, handed Const. Susan Gastaldo a reprimand and docked her seven days pay after delivering a scathing judgment on her actions around the affair with Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson.

Her punishment contrasted with the penalty handed to Pearson, who was already reprimanded and told he must give up 10 days pay for his part in the affair.

Both officers are married to other people.

In December, the panel found Gastaldo guilty of disgraceful conduct for having the affair which included sex in a police cruiser and then lying about it.

She has always denied the affair was consensual, claiming she was sexually assaulted and that her anxious condition allowed her to be coerced into a relationship.

"In this case, we have little to no chance of rehabilitating as there has been no acceptance of responsibility," Reid said. "She continues to believe and pronounce the false theory of being forced into a sexual relationship."

Reid said the board was gravely concerned over Gastaldo's willingness to lie.

"These lies are a reflection of her inability to accept the truth and in this case, the truth before the board is an affair between two consenting adults."

Immediately after the decision, Gastaldo's lawyer, Larry McGonigal, said his client would be appealing the case to the RCMP commissioner.

"Specifically we are concerned that expert evidence was rejected improperly and that factual findings were made in error."

Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens, the commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C., said, in a statement, he didn't attend Thursday's ruling but noted Gastaldo can appeal the decision within 14 days.

He said the adjudication board was comprised of three high-ranking officers, two of whom graduated from law school.

Meanwhile, Reid said the mitigating factor in the case was Gastaldo's ongoing medical condition, but he added her anxiety disordered was also the reason why she stuck to her claim the affair was coerced.

"How can she possibly tell her husband the truth now?" Reid said. "The anxiety of possibly losing her marriage, her husband, her children, her home is overwhelming against a disciplinary hearing.

"We're saddened at the Catch 22 situation for her and hope Const. Gastaldo can recover from her illness."

Reid said it was apparent Gastaldo is no longer suited for police work and her continuing anxiety disorder "demands the commanding officer should consider initiating a medical discharge for her."

A medical discharge would make Gastaldo available for disability benefits.

Gastaldo sat beside her lawyer as her punishment was delivered. Her husband sat in the gallery with a dozen reporters.

In separate hearings for each officer last year, the panel heard lurid details about the affair, including where and how the pair had sex and that they traded sexually suggestive emails over RCMP-issued BlackBerrys.

In August 2009, Gastaldo's husband found her BlackBerry containing the emails between his wife and her supervisor. Gastaldo was on medical leave when the affair started in the months before her husband confronted her.

The panel heard that she and Pearson had exchanged more than 160 emails over a three-month period and talked to each other on their BlackBerrys for more than 48 hours collectively.

When Gastaldo was found guilty of disgraceful conduct in December, the panel suggested one of the sanctions could be dismissal because she lied about the affair.

McGonigal, told the panel on Wednesday that the Canadian public wouldn't view the process as fair if Gastaldo was fired while her superior officer was simply docked pay.

He said the punishment amounts to about $4,000 for Pearson, but firing Gastaldo would amount to a loss of about $4 million in salary, benefits and pension over her lifetime.

When the board handed out punishment to Pearson two weeks ago, the panel chairman said he would have faced much worse punishment had his commanding officer made different accusations.

Reid said for unknown reasons, Pearson didn't face accusations of abuse of authority, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and lying to a superior officer.

He said he wouldn't hesitate to demote Pearson for such conduct, but those allegations were not before the board.

McGonigal said it was Gastaldo who was subjected to abuse of authority and that she tried to refuse his advances on at least three occasions but, "he wouldn't take no for an answer."

Gastaldo has been on the force for 14 years.

She has launched a civil suit into the matter.


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