Transparency. Thatâ€™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 Robertsonâ€™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 Visionâ€™s record resulted from a 2008 article published on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogspot; Eleanor Gregory (pictured above) 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 of the case — an odd claim considering that the boycott had been publicized and had escalated during her term as trustee — and offering to â€œmake enquiriesâ€ 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 â€œ review â€œ of her case at the Vancouver School Board. The woman needed the notes so that she could point out to Gregory how the â€œreviewâ€ 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. (The woman’s request for a second copy was not unreasonable, considering that a VSB staff person had previously asked her to send them a second copy of a much longer document.) The woman thought it would be quicker to ask Gregory for another copy so that they could get started, rather than having to â€œturn my filing cabinet upside down.â€
Gregory didnâ€™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 womanâ€™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 â€œreviewâ€.
Disclosure of the notes was essential because they provided evidence that the â€œreviewâ€ 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 evidence of 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 manâ€™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 â€“ which included Visionâ€™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.
Visionâ€™s Gregory was willing to treat this â€œreviewâ€ as legitimate. On Tues., June 17/08 at 1 a.m., Gregory finally responded to the woman, â€œI 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.â€ The woman says thereâ€™s no way that Gregory believed that was a legitimate review. â€œSheâ€™s a lawyer, she knows better. Sheâ€™s circling the wagons.â€
As a lawyer, Gregory would have also known that in the interests of transparency, elected officials are required to do School Board business using their official VSB email. Yet Gregory switched to her private email account to respond, an email account which would be off the public record.
Gregory also wrote in the email, â€œI am not in a position to enquire into this matter further.â€ Sheâ€™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?
But that wasn’t the end of the games Gregory was playing. In the same email, Gregory wrote, â€œIn addition, because you have directed your complaints to me, I am not in a position to participate, and will not participate, in any way in any deliberations that may come to the Board with respect to your complaints during the remaining months of my tenure.â€ Gregory had invited the woman to contact her and then claimed that by contacting her, she had disqualified her from participating in the resolution of her case. The woman was not fooled by Gregory’s legalese. “There’s no reason why she couldn’t participate in my case,” says the woman.
Reasons weren’t something that Gregory seemed interested in disclosing when the woman emailed her on June 22 to ask her to explain why the fact that she “directed” her complaint to her would disqualify her from participating in her case. Gregory wouldn’t explain. She responded with a curt one line email: “I have referred your inquiry to legal counsel at the Vancouver School Board.” This unnamed legal counsel never answered the question. Five months have passed.
Just this week, Vision’s Gregor Robertson assured Vancouver voters that Vision was the party that could be counted on for â€œstraight talkâ€.