The complainant in the case of Lieutenant General. Court-martial Steven Whelan told the court she believes he wrote her a poor performance report while they were deployed together because she declined his invitation to a private meeting in her hotel room.
Whelan has pleaded not guilty to one count of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline related to improperly changing the woman’s performance appraisal report in 2011.
Military prosecutors allege that Whelan boosted her score on a performance report because he wanted to prevent her from disclosing personal and inappropriate emails between them.
The defense argues that the woman manipulated Whelan to get a better review and that he was charged for political reasons.
The woman, whom The Canadian Press is not naming due to the nature of the allegations, testified that she met Whelan in early 2010 while working in Ottawa. Her position involved liaising with small missions, including Operation Proteus in Jerusalem.
At the time, Whelan was a colonel and task force commander on that mission.
The witness told the court-martial that they began emailing each other about work and, within a couple of months, they were speaking almost daily and having personal conversations on Skype, by phone and by email.
She said that during that time, Whelan “hand-selected” her to deploy to Operation Proteus, even though the position was supposed to go to someone of a higher rank.
She told the court martial that before they were sent together, Whelan’s communication was sometimes inappropriate and flirtatious, making her uncomfortable.
“I was conflicted. Most of the time I ignored it, I didn’t address it, I made light of it,” he said.
Witness says she was invited to Whelan’s hotel
She testified that one time while she was on tour, Whelan invited her to dinner and have a private meeting at his hotel.
She testified that he avoided her invitation and after that, his attitude towards her changed. “There was always a problem with me,” she said, adding that she felt Whelan belittled her in front of others.
When she received her performance report later that year, the witness said she was surprised to see that it was a “lower” score.
She said she asked then-Lt. Col. Ron Ubbens, who gave her the report, explained why her score was low.
The witness said Ubbens told her that Whelan had changed the report he wrote to give her a lower score. She said she told Ubbens that “(Whelan) didn’t get what he wanted and that’s how he makes me pay, by affecting my career.”
Ubbens, who was on the stand Monday, told the court-martial in his own testimony that he wrote two performance reports for the woman and that Whelan did not help write them.
He testified that he felt he gave the woman a good score on the first report, but she refused to sign it because she said it did not reflect her work. Ubbens said the woman then told him that she had inappropriate emails from Whelan and that she would show them to a higher commander unless they improved her score.
The court also saw emails in which Whelan asked Ubbens to “make her leave” and appease her. Whelan also said he thought he would ruin his career and her marriage if the emails he sent to the woman were revealed.
Ubbens said he never read the allegedly inappropriate emails himself.
It is unclear whether the emails at the center of the case will ever be made public.
The military judge, Cmdr. Martin Pelletier has not decided whether they will be admitted as evidence because the prosecution has not yet proven that they are relevant to the charge.
Whelan was initially charged with two counts of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, including one count of allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. However, the military dropped that charge before the trial began.
Senior prosecutor Max Reede argued Wednesday that although the conversations occurred before the two were sent together, they help establish Whelan’s motive for changing the performance report by establishing that their relationship was inappropriate.
Pelletier told Reede he believes the case is no longer about sexual misconduct.
“For two years, General Whelan has been known to the Canadian public as one of the general officers suspected of sexual misconduct. If you come here to trial, you drop the sexual misconduct allegation, day 1,” Pelletier said . .
“And now it seems to me that they are trying to bring sexual misconduct in through the back door, knowing that these emails will be made public and knowing that, therefore, they will be reported and the court of public opinion will have judged the general. Whelan If I can’t judge him for that.”
Attorneys will argue over the admissibility of the emails Wednesday afternoon. They are also expected to argue over whether the emails should be subject to a publication ban.