willock coi commission
During a press conference with his lawyer Richard Rowe, Speaker of the House Julian Willock refuted Commissioner of Inquiry Sir Gary Hickinbottom’s allegation that he had breached the Register of Interests Act for all three years he’s been in office. But the supporting documents he gave the media show that for the first two years of his term he filed his declaration of interests late and incorrectly. (File photo: JOEY WALDINGER)

After Commissioner of Inquiry Sir Gary Hickinbottom alleged that Speaker of the House Julian Willock had breached the Register of Interests Act all three years that he’s been in office, Mr. Willock called a press conference yesterday where he presented a document package that he said proves “there has been no violation [of the act] by the speaker.” 

But the bundle of information he provided shows that for the first two years he was in office, Mr. Willock filed his declaration of interest forms incorrectly and after they were due. 

On May 21, 2019, Registrar of Interests Victoreen Romney-Varlack wrote Mr. Willock to inform him that the one-page letter he had emailed her on March12 “does not meet the requirements of the declaration form.” 

The package Mr. Willock gave the media does not include any reply to Ms. Romney-Varlack’s May 21, 2019 email. 

The following year, Ms. Romney-Varlack sent Mr. Willock a March 10 letter, to which she attached the declaration form and reminded the speaker it was due in two days. 

Although the declaration was due on March 12, 2020, Ms. Romney-Varlack wrote, “Given the date of this communication, coupled with the fact that the office of the registrar is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I will expect your declaration of interests during the period of 17th and 18th March, 2020.” 

Mr. Willock responded on March 12, the day his declaration was due, with an email stating, “There has been No Change in what I declared a year ago. Please be guided accordingly.” 

Ms. Romney-Varlack responded five days later. 

“While there has been no change in what you declared a year ago, there has also been no change in the legislation that governs your declaration of interests as set out in Section Three,” Ms. Romney-Varlack wrote.  

“Please pay careful attention to this section and have the declaration form completed in its entirety at your earliest convenience.” 

The speaker subsequently sent the registrar a follow-up email on March 19, 2020, to which he attached a declaration form dated the day before. 

Although Mr. Willock answered yes to the second question, which asks whether he has “any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation” for which he is remunerated or has any pecuniary interest, he did not provide any details as the form requires. 

Mr. Willock’s information bundle included another declaration form dated June 22, 2020. 

Under a question that asks for details of his business interests, he listed “Leonard and Associates; Advance Marketing and Professional Services; and rental income.” 

But by the end of July, the Registrar of Interests apparently still had not received a satisfactory declaration of interests from the speaker. 

“I am to remind you that your declaration of interests for the period 12th March … is overdue and that you should make every effort to rectify this outstanding matter at your earliest convenience,” Ms. Romney-Varlack wrote in a July 22 letter included in Mr. Willock’s bundle. 

2021 declaration 

This February, the registrar reached out to Mr. Willock weeks before his declaration was due. “To facilitate your compliance, I have enclosed a declaration form for your convenient filing. As 12th March, 2021, falls on a Friday, I will expect to receive your declaration on 16th March when the office of the registrar is open. I do look forward to receiving your declaration then,” Ms. Romney-Varlack wrote on Feb. 24. 

Mr. Willock included in his bundle a declaration form dated March 2, 2021. 

The March 2 declaration form was the last item Mr. Willock included in his bundle to the press, and he did not include any notice from the registrar showing that she had received the form. 

During a June 18 hearing before the COI, Sir Gary alleged that the registrar did not provide the COI with a 2021 declaration form from Mr. Willock, though Mr. Willock claimed that he had that form on file in his office.