EDMONTON - Martin Ignasiak resigned from the police commission Friday, citing a potential conflict of interest with his new role as partner in his law firm.
The 31-year-old had deflected numerous calls for his resignation during his controversial four-year tenure, but said he wasn't pushed out.
The latest calls for the commission chairman's head came as he became embroiled in a police drunk driving stakeout, the aftermath of which claimed a police chief.
He acknowledged his rocky relationship with the service Friday when he began by jokingly telling reporters that he was leaving the commission to apply for the chief's job.
Ignasiak said the real reason for his decision stems from his promotion to partner at Fraser Milner Casgrain, which represents the Edmonton Police Service and individual officers.
When Ignasiak joined the board, he said there wasn't a conflict with his job because his practice focused on environmental law. However, as partner, a portion of his income would come from the police work and he said that could be a problem.
"The risk of being in conflict of interest was too strong a possibility," Ignasiak said. "The job of the commission is difficult enough without having to constantly worry whether its chairman or any of its members are in conflict of interest."
Acting police Chief Daryl da Costa congratulated Ignasiak on his promotion, and Mayor Stephen Mandel said Ignasiak had done a "great job." The mayor wouldn't comment on speculation he'd asked the embattled Ignasiak to resign.
Pete Ratcliff, president of the Edmonton Police Association, said he thought Ignasiak overstepped his bounds on a number of occasions. He had called for Ignasiak's resignation a number of times, of late after the firing of chief Fred Rayner.
"Just that we can get this relationship back on track," Ratcliff said. "Everyone knows it's been dysfunctional, at best. We've spent far too much time arguing about personal differences, about things that really aren't worthwhile."
Ignasiak, appointed to the commission in 2001 and as chairman in 2002, says he's been a lightning road for the board.
"I have received credit for things the commission has done that I shouldn't have received credit for, because it's often at the urging of members that certain things have happened," he said. "And when a body is criticized, it's usually the head of the body that's criticized.
"And the Edmonton Police Association and some of its members have had some difficulty with the direction of this commission, and that's natural.
Ignasiak has been in the middle of the controversy over the Nov. 18 stakeout of the Overtime Taproom and Grill. Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte was the target of the sting, and Ignasiak also believed he was being watched that night.
Both were at an event at the bar, took cabs home and said they weren't intoxicated.
Ignasiak, who was vocal in the aftermath, had to step down as spokesman on the issue.
The controversy flared again after then-chief Rayner released the results of the investigation into the incident, clearing the seven officers at the scene, but saying two senior officers would face discipline.
Days later, the Edmonton Journal printed transcripts of police radio calls that showed the officers were pleased with the possibility of arresting Diotte.
Rayner went on medical leave and was fired by the police commission the next day. At the same meeting, the commission hired his replacement, former Edmonton deputy chief David Cassels.
Some accused the police commission of using the sting and its aftermath as an excuse to get rid of Rayner, who had been initially hired in a close 5-4 vote. Former members of the police commission said Ignasiak had wanted Cassels.
City council overturned the commission's hiring of Cassels, launching a search for the new chief.
Ignasiak says despite his sometimes antagonistic relationship with the police service, he admires the officers and regrets that it may have seemed otherwise.
"[My regret] would be that I allowed myself and the commission to be portrayed by some as less than supportive of the men and women in the police service," he said. "I've met many great officers, very talented people who I think share the commission's goal of seeing the Edmonton Police Service be the best it can be."
The city will appoint a new person to the commission, and the members will elect a new chairman within the next few weeks.