Administrative law – Pharmacists – Disciplinary proceedings – Billing practices – Boards and tribunals – Bias
Sawchuk v. Manitoba Pharmaceutical Assn.,  M.J. No. 384, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, September 25, 2002, Darichuk J.
In the summer of 1998, a series of articles was published in a newspaper alleging fraudulent billing practices on the part of a number of pharmacists. The Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association (the “Association”) decided to conduct an investigation of the pharmacists named in the article. Ronald F. Guse (“Mr. Guse”) was the Assistant Registrar and Inspector of the Association at the time. He was designated to carry out the investigation. Although Mr. Guse was appointed the Registrar of the Association during the course of his investigation, he nonetheless continued to discharge his investigatory responsibilities. Mr. Guse was unable to substantiate the newspaper allegations; however, as a result of the investigation he recommended that charges of professional misconduct be laid against Mr. Sawchuk on unrelated issues. As Registrar of the Association, he formulated the subject charges, issued a notice of hearing and selected the committee panel.
At the commencement of Mr. Sawchuk’s hearing, his counsel raised the issue of bias. In its decision to convict, the Discipline Committee dealt specifically with the issue of bias concluding that Mr. Guse had no influence or control over the decision of the Discipline Committee, who came to a conclusion on their own discretion. Mr. Guse applied to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench for an order quashing the decision of the Committee. The court concluded that a well-informed observer could reasonably perceive bias on the part of the panel, given Mr. Guse’s role in selecting the panel, and accordingly, the decision of council was quashed. A new hearing was directed before another Discipline Committee of the Association comprised of members other than those previously selected. The selection of the new Committee was to be made without input from the Registrar.
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