Cortes Island Grant-in-Aid Debate Moved In Camera

Originally published May 24; some additional information added May 30

By Roy L Hales

The Electoral Area Service Committee (EASC) continues to thwart Cortes Island’s Grants in Aid from going forward. At their May 8th committee meeting, three of the four EASC Directors (Abram, Leigh & Whalley) did not acknowledge the Cortes applications, in an obviously concerted attempt to prevent the applications from reaching the Stathcona Regional District Board. At the May 22nd Board Meeting, the remaining EASC Director (Noba Anderson from Cortes Island) made a motion for the SRD board to receive the applications. Quadra Island Director Jim Abram responded with a motion to defer the matter. This was secounded by Oyster Bay – Buttle Lake Director Brenda Leigh. They were defeated. This prompted Directors Abram and Leigh to recuse themselves “due to legal ramifications.” After the board approved receipt of the applications,  the Cortes Island Grant-in-Aid debate moved in camera.

Don’t Let This Die In Camera

“Please don’t let this die at an in-camera meeting,” Anderson asked the board at large.

Most of the Directors appear to support the idea of moving forward on Cortes Island’s applications. 

Zeballos Director Julie Colborne said she has a problem with not moving forward due to the fact that these grant-in-aid applications are for CORE funding – organizations need to have the lights on (ie pay hydro). 

Mayor John McDonald of Sayward said, “This is too much! We need to let Cortes Island do business.”

Grant-in-Aid Debate Moved In Camera

In light of the debate’s obvious undercurrents, Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield moved that the debate be taken off camera, stating he was concerned.

Kyuquot/Nootka-Sayward Director Gerald Whalley muttered under his breath “You should be concerned” and seconded the motion.

Grant In Aid’s Refused

Added May 30: I do not remember seeing any reference to a vote in the SRD Minutes when I first wrote this story.

The Campbell River Mirror states their coverage was “edited to reflect an error in the SRD minutes about what came back from the in camera portion of the May 22 meeting. Initially, there was no reference to a motion for grant-in-aid requests, but it was amended later to include the item. We’re sorry for the mix-up.”

The SRD minutes now state that the motion to “approve grants in aid to be paid from the Electoral Area B grant in aid budget” was defeated, with all Directors except Anderson opposed. 

EASC’s Endorsement

Director Abram told the Campbell River Mirror that the Grants in Aid were not received by EASC, discussed or given any recommendation.

“Anything that comes to this board without a recommendation from the appropriate committee should not be considered,” he said.

In a previous meeting, Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams recused himself from voting on a Cortes Grant-in- Aid request because of it was not endorsed by EASC.

“I’m fully supportive of the application of the Klahoose First Nation, but I am going to recuse myself on the principle of the process. We have a process in that the Electoral Services are to endorse and approve an electoral area service request and we don’t have that,” he said. (Starting 12:07 in the linked “Raw Audio Klahoose Grant in Aid podcast.”) 

At that time, Cornfield responded, “The EASC does not have the authority to approve or turn down a Grant In Aid. It is only this Board. As to the process, EASC followed due process by saying they had no recommendation and it was referred to this board. So process is followed. Bottom line is, this board approves any Grants in Aid.”

(The Klahoose application was granted.)

When I recently asked Director Whalley about the turmoil within EASC, he replied that it arose from an in-camera matter.

The Legal Petition

On January 2, 2019, fourteen Cortes residents filed a legal petition against Director Anderson in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. They claim she should not have accepted money from a GoFundMe campaign set up after her father’s cabin burned down in January 2018. Anderson is her father’s legal guardian and used the money to add a bedroom for him to her home. 

A large number of the petition’s “facts” have been found to be erroneous.

The petition names twelve individuals who contributed sums of between $20 and $100 (each) to the GoFundMe campaign. Most have varying degrees of connectivity – past or present members, employees, and a subcontractor – to a number of Cortes volunteer organizations that are in the Strathcona Regional District’s Grant-in Aid program. One of the named organizations was not in the program at that time. None of the board members, from any organizations actually in the 2018 Grant-in-Aid program, contributed to the GoFundMe campaign.

The petitioners also point to a few specific individuals who are said to have personally benefitted from their donation. Example: An alleged garbage collector who contributed $20 is said to have never bid for his SRD contract – but it turns out the petitioners named the wrong person. Had they searched the SRD minutes under the actual garbage collector’s name, the petitioners would have discovered the contract was awarded at the Dec 11, 2011, SRD Board Meeting and renewed in 2017, again in 2018.

Click here to see a list of the petition’s factual errors.

“SRD” Involvement?

One of the petitioners claims that Anderson “ … 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.”

While Chair Babchuk did not respond to my query about this comment, she has previously stated that there is no connection between the board, as a whole, and the legal petition.

This may not be true of all the Directors individually. Two are already known to have interjected themselves into Cortes politics. During the 2018 election, Jim Abram logged in to a Cortes Island Facebook page to post an attack on Director Anderson. On December 8, Brenda Leigh told the Campbell River Mirror she was receiving communications from opponents of Cortes Island’s proposed Hall tax. EASC’s opposition to the Klahoose Nation’s Grant-in Aid application is said to have begun after Leigh “received a phone call from a Cortes resident.” 

There is clearly much that is not known about these events.

Going Forward

The lawsuit between Director Anderson and the petitioners is expected to finally reach the courts sometime in early to mid June. 

Meanwhile, seven Cortes organizations are hoping they will eventually receive funding. 

Disclosure

The report above incorporates notes of the meeting taken by Lovena Harvey. I am the President of the Cortes Radio Society, one of this year’s Grant-in Aid applicants. Cortes Radio has not previously applied for or received a Grant in Aid since April 27, 2017.

Top Photo Credit: Strathcona Regional District Board Meeting of Feb 28, 2019 – Roy L Hales photo

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