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An RCMP officer with connections to top-level B.C. Liberals was involved in the decision to reopen a police investigation into former NDP premier Glen Clark, Mr. Clark's breach of trust trial heard yesterday.

An earlier police probe had decided no further action was necessary.

RCMP Inspector William Ard testified that he consulted Staff Sergeant Peter Montague about the matter and both agreed that a renewed police investigation was warranted into anonymous complaints about Mr. Clark's role in a casino licence application.

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Staff Sgt. Montague was twice asked by Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell to run for the party in the past.

On the witness stand, Insp. Ard agreed that his fellow officer was also a "very, very good friend" of Liberal cabinet minister Gordon Hogg.

Despite Staff Sgt. Montague's connections to the Liberal party, Insp. Ard said that he appointed him as one of two officers to investigate the allegations against Mr. Clark.

Mr. Clark's lawyer David Gibbons questioned Insp. Ard about the decision.

"Didn't it strike you as not a good idea to have somebody with political interests like Montague examining key witnesses? Didn't that strike you as a concern?" Mr. Gibbons asked.

"Yes, it was [a concern]" Insp. Ard replied.

"Because his approach might not be as professional because of mixed interests," Mr. Gibbons suggested.

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"I was more concerned about perception than Mr. Montague's professionalism," Insp. Ard responded.

"Sometimes perception is everything," Mr. Gibbons said.

"I would agree with that," the RCMP officer said.

"And yet you let him [Staff Sgt. Montague]stay in the case and question witnesses?" Mr. Gibbons asked.

"Yes," Insp. Ard said.

Answering questions from prosecutor Bill Smart, Insp. Ard said he chose Staff Sgt. Montague and Corporal John Taylor to investigate "because I had confidence in their abilities.

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"I felt they were the appropriate people to assign."

Mr. Clark is charged with breach of trust and receiving an unreported benefit in connection with a casino licence application by a one-time friend and neighbour who did free home renovations for the former premier.

Insp. Ard said the first two officers who looked into the allegations against Mr. Clark did not believe the case needed further investigation.

But after reviewing the file with Staff Sgt. Montague, he said that he decided to order a formal police investigation.

The trial continues Monday.

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