The article that follows consists of personal opinion and is not necessarily the opinion of Cortes Radio, its board, employees or volunteers.
By Roy L Hales
On January 2, 2019, fourteen Cortes residents filed a legal petition, in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, stating that Regional Director “Anderson took money from her constituents for personal gain and a number of these same constituents received gifts and grants in return.” Many of the twelve individuals and seven non-profit organizations named in this document felt it was an attack on their integrity. Approximately half of the island’s adult population signed an open letter protesting the petition and the SRD’s failure to support their Director. In a recent Facebook exchange one of the better known petitioners said they have been misrepresented. Bertha Jeffery responds to criticisms of the legal petition.
The Allegations Are Against Noba
“The allegations are against Noba as an elected individual accepting funds from her constituents without disclosing them. No reverence [reference] was ever made that these people were trying to bribe her … if we thought this was bribery we would have brought charges against the constituents. We did not, nor do we intend to,” Jeffery wrote on the Cortes Radio Facebook Page.
Jeffery did not explain what the named Cortes constituents allegedly “received gifts and grants in return” for. Or whether she thinks they expected said gifts and grants prior to making their donations. They each gave between $20 and $100 to a GoFundMe campaign set up after Bernie Anderson’s cabin burned down on January 31, 2018. Mr Anderson suffers from dementia and Noba is his legal guardian.
Bertha Jeffery is the anonymous petitioner mentioned in 5:30 – 5:48 of the podcast above. Jeffery was in Victoria when she returned my phone call. She declined the opportunity to be interviewed and added that she doubted that any of the other petitioners want to be interviewed. Jeffery said they had been receiving a lot of flack since the Campbell River Mirror broke this story, naming all of the petitioners, on January 7, 2019.
Bernie’s Cabin Fire Rebuild
Anderson’s neighbour and land-partner Lovena Harvey set up the GoFundMe campaign called “Bernie’s Cabin Fire Rebuild” on March 13, 2018. Twenty-eight people, many of which were Cortes residents, subsequently donated $3,700. Almost all of these were made “11 months ago” or “12 months ago,” which is about March or April, 2018. Another Cortes donation, for $25, was made “9 months ago” (about June, 2018). The donations from Cortes residents are of amounts between $20 and $150. The largest donation from someone named in the suit is is $100.
The petitioners claim that Noba Anderson was in a conflict of interest when she used the funds to built an addition onto her home for her father to live in.
“What The Lawsuit Is About,” Or Not?
“She should have declared the income especially when asked by the SRD and did the honourable thing and returned the funds. And take down the Go Fund Me page. She refused to and that is what the lawsuit is about,” claims Jeffery.
She added, “Why did Noba hire a lawyer in late 2018? The law suit was filed in January. Obviously she knew she was in legal trouble.”
I emailed Chair Michele Babchuk of the Strathcona Regional District Board for clarification about some of Jeffrey’s remarks, but expect her to reply, once again, that the SRD cannot comment on a matter before the courts.
Jeffrey did not explain how she knew about the SRD’s alleged request that Anderson declare the GoFundMe campaign donations as personal earnings.
Nor did she indicate when the petitioners started talking about making a legal attack on Director Anderson. Did they come up with the idea after the October 2018 election? Or before? When did they first approach a lawyer? Were all fourteen petitioners involved in the final decision? Was everyone who signed that document aware it was the beginning of a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia?
According to Director Anderson’s affidavit, “Construction [of the addition for her father] began in late spring of 2018 and continued through late fall with him moving into his new quarters just before Christmas.”
The Community Charter
In the Community Charter, it says (item 105) “(1)A council member must not, directly or indirectly, accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected with the member’s performance of the duties of office.
- “(a) a council member receives a gift or personal benefit referred to in section 105 (2) (a) that exceeds $250 in value, or
- (b)the total value of such gifts and benefits, received directly or indirectly from one source in any 12 month period, exceeds $250.”
(2) In the circumstances described in subsection (1), the council member must file with the corporate officer, as soon as reasonably practicable, a disclosure statement indicating:
- “(a) the nature of the gift or benefit,
- (b) its source, including, if it is from a corporation, the full names and addresses of at least 2 individuals who are directors of the corporation,
- (c) when it was received, and
- (d) the circumstances under which it was given and accepted.”
“(3) A person who contravenes this section is disqualified from holding office as described in section 108.1 [disqualification for contravening conflict rules] unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgment made in good faith.”
To Have Anderson Disqualified From Holding Office
Jeffery did not think it significant that Director Anderson appears to have been acting in her father’s interest when she added a bedroom for him to her home.
The first order sought in the legal petition is that “Anderson be disqualified from holding office until the next general local election.”
Did Not Inform Any Named Individuals
Jeffery and her fellow petitioners did not notify the Cortes residents and non profits named in their filing that they were being accused of giving Anderson money and receiving “gifts and grants in return.” Were it not for the actions of a few community members, the named individuals might never have discovered that a Supreme Court filing cites them in passages like the following:
“Garbage collection on Cortes Island is administered through an SRD contract which has never publicly been placed for bid. Morgan Tams does the garbage collection on Cortes Island and has personally contributed to the Go-Fund-Me Acct.”
Tams responded in his subsequent legal affidavit “I do not collect garbage for Cortes Island. I have never been involved with garbage collection on Cortes Island. In the two and a half years I have lived on the island, I have worked as a self-employed artist and a seasonal employee at Hollyhock.”
He added, “I donated $20 to the “Bernie’s Cabin Fire Rebuild” GoFundMe campaign to support Bernie Anderson when his cabin burned down. This was done purely in the spirit of community support, to help out a neighbour in a time of need. To suggest that I donated such a small sum with the goal of some kind of compensation from Director Noba Anderson is ridiculous.”
Nine of the twelve named individuals filed affidavits, and in almost every case point to significant errors of fact. You can read my synopsis of these documents, and find links to the affidavits, here.
Consequences Of The Legal Petition
As a consequence of the Legal Petition, the Strathcona Regional District has delayed a number of matters pertaining to Cortes Island. The proposed referenda for First Responder funding and a Community Hall Service tax have been delayed several months. Cortes Island still does not have an Advisory Planning Commission, whose membership would have otherwise have been confirmed at the January 24, 2019 SRD meeting.
The fate of a $5,000 grant in aid application, which the Klahoose Nation filed to help fund the employment of “a researcher to catalogue information on artefacts, burial sites, and culturally significant sites currently held in government records” has yet to be determined.
In her Regional Director’s Update, published on the Cortes Tideline on March 17, 2019, Director Anderson explained that the SRD’s Electoral Area Services Committee has been unsure what to do about the grant ever since:
“At the Committee meeting, Director [Brenda] Leigh stated that she had received a phone call from a Cortes resident objecting to this application on a number of political, legal and funding grounds.”
This is not the only known incident in which anonymous Cortes residents have attempted to shape developments on the island. Shortly after Director Anderson was re-elected on Oct 20, 2018, the RCMP received complaints that 43 voters did not qualify as residents of Cortes Island. The RCMP investigated, but found no evidence to substantiate these claims.
While it is not known if Jeffery has any connection to the anonymous informant(s), she published an anonymous post defending their actions in the March 15, 2019 Cortes Marketer. This article revealed new information. It appears the allegedly fraudulent voters may have been accused of having their “usual place of residence” in another jurisdiction.
Smelt Bay on Cortes Island by Djun Kim via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)