Originally published May 25; revised May 31 & June 2, 2019.
By Roy L Hales
Shortly after fourteen Cortes residents filed a legal petition against their Regional Director, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) hired Craig Peterson of Creative Solutions Risk Management Consulting to investigate the charges. The SRD just released a heavily redacted copy of his findings. The Craig Peterson Report did not find evidence supporting the legal petition.
Somewhere between a half and two thirds of the Craig Peterson report is redacted. However these appear to be the principle questions:
The Key Questions
“As noted under the Scope of the Investigation, there were two points from the information provided that were the primary focus of the review and are detailed as follows:”
“Part 1: Alleged, Director Anderson received gifts, in conflict with acting in her role as an elected official, in the forms of cash from a Go Fund Me campaign as well as other cash, labour and material donations, in contravention of the Community Charter” – page 8
While Part 1 is almost totally redacted, there was some useful information in Part 2.
“Part 2: As a result of those gifts received, has Director Anderson placed herself in a position of a conflict of interest past, present or future with various organizations, societies, committees and/or individuals that contributed money, cash or other donations in kind, in assisting with the addition to her home” – page 11.
Grants Made Prior To GoFundMe Campaign
” The Petition identifies seven organizations, South Cortes Community Association (SCCA), Friends of Cortes Island Society (FOCIS), Cortes Island Seafood Association (CISFA), Museum, Cortes Island, Business and Tourism Association (CIBTA), Cortes Radio and ESS having received Grants in Aid from the SRD. Of these seven organizations, only two received Grants in Aid after the initiation of the GFM campaign. Those being FOCIS and CIBTA. All other Grants in Aid were received and or applied for, PRIOR to the initiation of the GFM and most trend over the past several years of receiving Grants in Aid.” – page 12
Possible Factual Errors In The Report
There are several factual errors in the paragraph above.
Firstly neither Cortes Radio or the ESS were in the 2018 Grant in Aid Program. While the legal petition appears to suggest that Cortes Radio is an applicant (albeit citing evidence from the previous year), the second error can be firmly laid at Peterson’s door. The petition mentions the ESS, but there is no suggestion that it received a Grant In Aid.
Secondly, Peterson perpetuates the petition’s misspellings of the abbreviations “FOCI” and “CIBATA”. He mentions “FOCIS” in six places (pp 12 & 14) and “CIBTA” in three places (pp 12 & 15).
Peterson does not appear to have contacted the organizations defamed in the legal petition. Speaking as President of Cortes Radio, I know he did not contact us. His perpetuation of the incorrect abbreviations “FOCIS” and “CIBTA” suggests those organizations were not consulted. I doubt the ESS would have allowed him to perpetuate the idea they were in the 2018 Grant-in Aid Program.
The Petition’s Factual Errors
This is important because there are an incredible number of factual errors in the legal petition. They range from spelling mistakes to incorrect assertions about the positions people held. (Examples: Ryan Harvey has never been one of FOCI’s Directors; Martha Abelson was not a Director of CIBATA in 2018 and Cory Dow was no longer serving on the APC).
Peterson presumably discovered and mentions some of these errors in the redacted segments of his report, but was he aware of the sheer magnitude of misinformation?
No Evidence Discovered
Never-the-less, Peterson states:
“In this investigation, there was no evidence discovered that clearly indicates a correlation of those donating to the GFM campaign [GoFundMe] and the points raised in the Petition. There is the unknown that exists of those unnamed whether as anonymous donors in the GFM or through direct donations to Director Anderson, that there may be a conflict of interest, however, can not be established as an unknown.” – page 20
(In a previous interview, the GoFundMe’s administrator stated that the anonymous donations were from members of the Anderson family.)
Luckily, a large segment of Peterson’s concluding remarks escaped redaction and thus we read:
“There is no evidence to say, that the donations made to the GFM by known community members did so, in hopes of receiving something in return. The donations may be viewed more in relation to a community providing a helping hand when needed. It is well known small communities are willing to help one another, as this was stated on numerous occasions in this investigation and has happened before on Cortes Island.” – page 22
No Political Reason For Donating
“As noted, there is no dispute that donations were made and received by Director Anderson, directly or indirectly. The donators themselves, advise it was to help, no political reasoning for donating. Director Anderson in her belief had not felt there was any wrongdoing and thus no need for reporting any of the donations and assistance that was received from either those known or unknown.” – page 22
“Evidence to provide a direct correlation between those who donated to the GFM and Director Anderson directly as it relates to accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected with the member’s performance of the duties of office, was not discovered in this review …” – page 22
Speculations in the Report
In addition to admissions that he found no supporting evidence, Peterson also muses over possible problems. On page 11, for example, he mentions ” … the concern, that Director Anderson by virtue of accepting those gifts, may have placed herself in a conflict of interest past, present or future.”
This is difficult to accept. According to the GoFundMe page administrator (Lovena Harvey), the largest donations were made by members of the extended Anderson family. The Cortes donations cited in the petition are between $20 and $100 and there is also a Cortes donation of $150. If it were not for all the attention, I doubt Noba would even know who these smaller donors are. As a result of all the attention, I imagine their names are now burned into her memory.
To put this in context, when I interviewed SRD Chair Babchuk, in the Heriot Bay Inn on Feb 19, 2019, she paid for my lunch. I do not remember whether I drank a pop or a beer, but I ate their most expensive burger platter (with bacon and cheese). So, with a tip, the bill would probably have been $25 – $30.
This is more than the $20 one of the twelve individuals named in the legal petition contributed to the GoFundMe. Furthermore, Ms Babchuk dealt directly with me – not a website administered by a third party. There is no question of my knowing that she was the one treating me.
So was Chair Babchuk “bribing” me in hopes of getting a good report? I am probably not the first person she has treated to a meal. Who knows what her motives are? (I thought it was a good hamburger.) This particular lunch could be perceived as a bribe.
Do I really think it was a bribe? No, I think the idea is as absurd as the allegations in the legal petition – but how often have SRD Directors or staff done things that someone can interpret as illegal or inappropriate?
Do witch hunts of this kind merit the attention that the legal petition is receiving?
Limitations Of The Report
Releasing the Creative Solutions Risk Management Consulting report does not bring this matter to a close. It may not even be admissible in court.
As Craig Peterson writes, on page 4, “All future decisions to determine what if any next steps in addressing the allegations of Director Anderson breaching the Community Charter and or the SRD Code of Conduct are not a product of this report and rest with the SRD.”
The SRD decided to not pay Director Anderson’s legal bills.
The Legal petition is expected to be heard in court some in early to mid June, 2019.
All but one illustration taken from the Craig Peterson report.