Email Trail Raises Questions About Vision's Commitment to "Transparency"
Transparency. That’s a promise Gregor Robertson has been making as he asks Vancouverites to vote for him as Mayor. Robertson knows that Vancouver residents are upset after discovering that City Council had voted for a $100 million loan bailout of an Olympic developer in a secret meeting. And they are upset at the lack of disclosure of information about discussions in that in-camera meeting.
Secrecy. In-camera meetings. Failure to disclose important information. Despite Robertson’s claims that this is not the way Vision candidates would operate if elected, emails typed just a few months ago by a major player in his campaign, Vision School Board trustee Eleanor Gregory, reveal that these tactics are well within her comfort zone.
The emails that are now on Vision’s record resulted from a 2008 article published on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogspot; Eleanor Gregory was criticized in the article for having done nothing to resolve a case that had triggered an international boycott of diplomas issued by the Vancouver School Board. Gregory left a comment after the article, claiming not to have known about the case — an odd claim considering that the boycott had been publicized and had escalated during her term as trustee — and offering to “make enquiries” about it. Gregory left her official School Board email address for the Vancouver woman who was the complainant in the case.
The Vancouver woman contacted Gregory. She asked her for a copy of a page of notes taken during an in-camera “ review “ of her case at the Vancouver School Board. The woman needed the notes so that she could point out to Gregory how the “review” of the case had been mishandled. There was no question that the woman had a right to these notes as the VSB had already given her a copy, but she had misplaced it. (A VSB staff person had asked the woman to send the VSB a document twice, so her request to have a copy of notes replaced could hardly be considered unreasonable.) The woman thought it would be quicker to ask Gregory for another copy so that they could get started, rather than having to “turn my filing cabinet upside down.”
Gregory didn’t give her a copy. Yet commitment to full “disclosure”, except in cases where confidentiality is absolutely essential, is what Gregor Robertson has said voters can expect if Vision candidates are elected.
Not only did Gregory not give the woman a copy of the document requested, she initially ignored the woman’s email, even though she had publicly invited her to email her. Weeks went by. Finally, the woman contacted Gregory again and asked her to acknowledge receipt of the email. Gregory responded with an email in which she conspicuously avoided any mention of the request for a copy of the notes from the “review”.
Disclosure of the notes was essential because they provided evidence that the “review” arranged by the School Board had been bogus. An alleged offender in a case which had prompted the woman’s complaint to the VSB — a case teeming with documented evidence of alleged fraud — was selected to prepare a briefing on the case to the Board. In selecting him, the Board ignored his past “dirty tricks” which included passing off Freedom of Information requests to police and a psychiatric nurse as a sign of mental illness, concealing the fact that his secretary/freedom of information clerk was sending out letters inviting these FOI requests.
During this man’s briefing to the Board at the in-camera meeting, he was once again up to some dirty tricks. It has been established from the notes that he fabricated evidence during the briefing, making such claims as that a teacher against who complaints of verbal and physical abuse had been lodged by the woman (and previously by at least two other adults) was not working at the VSB at the time her misconduct occurred. Not one Board member chose to check this fact at VSB payroll. Instead, the Board – which included Vision’s current Council candidate Andrea Reimer who is being supported by Gregory — voted to dismiss the case. None of them had ever spoken to the victim. In fact, they concealed from her the fact that the in-camera review was taking place.
Vision’s Gregory was willing to treat this “review” as legitimate. On Tues., June 17/08 at 1 a.m., Gregory finally responded to the woman, “I did receive your email and did make enquiries of the Secretary Treasurer who confirmed that you had made complaints to the VSB which had been investigated.” The woman says there’s no way that Gregory believed that was a legitimate review. “She’s a lawyer, she knows better. She’s circling the wagons.”
Gregory also wrote in the June email, “I am not in a position to enquire into this matter further.” She’s an elected official, the woman points out. Who is in a better position to ensure that evidence of criminal activity at the School Board is investigated?