Arare sex scandal disturbed Alberta’s usually placid political scene last week. Graham Harle, 51, the province’s solicitor general, resigned after police had earlier found him with a prostitute in a government car parked outside a hotel in Edmonton’s skid road district. It was only the second time in the 12-year tenure of Peter Lougheed that a member of his cabinet had resigned in disgrace* and the first time a suggestion of illicit sex had tainted the administration.
Harle, a lawyer from the small town of Stettler, 180 km northeast of Calgary, became Alberta’s top law enforcement officer in 1979, taking over responsibility for police enforcement, provincial prisons and motor vehicles. The incident that led to his resignation began in the early morning hours of Nov. 10, when police questioned a man and a woman sitting talking in a white executive-model Chrysler parked outside a seedy hotel. The police left the scene after Harle identified himself, but five days later an anonymous caller told the Edmonton Journal about the routine check.
Harle, a cabinet minister since 1975 and an MLA since 1971, then told a Journal reporter that he had been conducting an unannounced personal investigation of prostitution control since he became solicitor general. “You certainly do not get firsthand information by going through several people,” declared Harle. He admitted he had not told police or his cabinet colleagues about his investigation but denied that he had ever engaged in illicit sex with prostitutes. “Absolutely not,” he said, stressing again that talk was the limit of his contact with prostitutes. On the night police questioned him, Harle said, he had been unable to sleep because of insomnia and had invited the woman into his car thinking she was looking for a ride. He realized she was a prostitute only when she began talking.
Lougheed, who later named Attorney General Neil Crawford to take over Harle’s duties, said belief in Harle’s account of the incident was not an issue. “He, upon reflection, felt the circumstances had obviously affected his continuing credibility as solicitor general of the province and offered his resignation,” Lougheed said. “I concurred with his assessment.”
-PETER GORRIE in Edmonton.
*Former hospitals minister Gordon Miniely left the cabinet in 1979 after he agreed that a heart specialist need not repay $U0,000 in fees he had improperly collected under the provincial health care insurance plan.
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