Former Saskatchewan Highway Patrol chief fired over buying equipment like silencers

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government says the former chief of the province's highway patrol was fired for buying inappropriate equipment, including firearm silencers.

But Robin Litzenberger is suing for damages alleging he was wrongfully dismissed.

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Details of the equipment purchased by the highway patrol were made public this week by the provincial auditor in her latest report.

Judy Ferguson said her office became involved after the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure investigated complaints made by employees about weapons that been be bought by highway patrol.

She found some of what was purchased didn't fit with the highway patrol's role, including certain firearms, 12 silencers, a drone and a high-powered rifle scope.

Ferguson said the ministry also owned three 9-mm pistols, two fully automatic rifles and an AR-10 carbine, which highway officials say never have been deployed.

"We were very concerned," Highways Minister Greg Ottenbreit said. "It wasn't acceptable equipment, that's why it's been confiscated, locked up and will be disposed of."

The Highway Patrol was set up several years ago by the provincial government to help RCMP respond to rural crime.

That meant the highways ministry had to buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment to properly outfit patrol officers who were given the power to help police respond to criminal calls.

Court documents show Litzenberger, who had worked for the government since 2002, became chief in 2019 after having served as director of the unit which was dedicated to commercial vehicle enforcement before the traffic officers joined the rural crime team.

In a statement of claim filed in Regina's Court of Queen's Bench last December, Litzenberger said his October 2019 firing was based on false allegations, which included improper spending on equipment and dishonesty.

"In 2019 he received the highest performance rating available to a civil servant," reads the court document.

"His efforts on behalf of the (government) were recognized by a service excellence award given to him in the same year."

A statement of defence filed by the government in January denies Litzenberger's claim and asks that it be dismissed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 26, 2020

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