The City of Vancouver is now on it’s third version of why a homeless man, Bill Simpson, has been barred from the Carnegie Center. Simpson, an elected Carnegie Board member, is not allowed into the building even to attend Board meetings.

During Monday evening’s Board meeting at Carnegie, Simpson stood on the sidewalk outside. The City’s on-site manager, Ethel Whitty, was inside presenting the City’s new, improved reason for barring Simpson, a reason that not even Simpson had yet heard.

The various versions of the Vancouver City vacillators

Version 1: In Dec. 2006, Simpson was barred from the Carnegie Learning Centre, accused by Carnegie management of “blogging” on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer.

Version 2: On June 21, 2007, Simpson was barred from the entire Carnegie building for operating a website which features “links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. He was provided this reason in a letter on Vancouver City letterhead, signed by General Manager of Community Services, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts.

Version 3: On June 25, 2007, just three working days after Simpson received the official notice of the barring on Vancouver City letterhead, the City revised the reason for the barring. Whitty announced to the public at a Carnegie Board meeting that Simpson had been barred because, “In fact, we are left with an unsafe situation in the Carnegie where there are staff members who are afraid to come into the building because of the situation with the blog.” This issue, which Ethel referred to as “Work Safe”, had never before been mentioned, not even to Simpson who was standing outside on the sidewalk with a borrowed cell phone. (Now a week later, Simpson still has not been informed of this reason for his barring.)

Board member Grant Chauncey was skeptical of version 3. I have the WorkSafe reference manual at home, he told Whitty. “Maybe you could point it out, where this applies because,” he said emphaticly, “I don’t see it…I want you to show it to me, right, as soon as we leave here.” Whitty refused: “I’m not going to show it to you…” Chauncey told her that she had a responsibility to explain this barring to the Board. “I’m not actually responsible to you”, she retorted.

Then Whitty told Chauncey, “I’m explaining it to you out of respect.” But of course she had just refused to explain it.

Two people who several Carnegie members believe have some explaining to do are Mayor Sam Sullivan and City Manager Judy Rogers.

City accused of suppressing evidence that was in the possession of the Mayor and City Manager

When drawing up their latest argument that Simpson was creating an “unsafe” environment at Carnegie, Downtown Eastside residents allege, the City suppressed evidence to the contrary. That evidence was in the form of two e-mails sent to Rogers, dated Dec. 4/06 and Dec. 14/06, and one sent to Mayor Sam Sullivan dated Mar. 21, 2007, three months before the final barring. The e-mails informed them that Carnegie patrons “using the internet to speak freely about practices at Carnegie” were being placed at risk by the conduct of Board members and workers at Carnegie. The e-mail author, who provided specifics of staff abuse, portrayed Bill and other alleged internet writers as the victims, not the cause of the increasingly “toxic” environment at Carnegie.

Jacquie Forbes-Roberts exposed as allowing her department’s web page to link to a publication abusing bloggers and reinforcing a witch hunt for a blogger

In accusing Simpson of creating an “unsafe” environment, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts and the City are being accused of ignoring a ‘witch hunt’ approach to bloggers reinforced by the Carnegie Newsletter. The Carnegie Newsletter is a publication that the City of Vancouver official website identifies as being produced under the managerial eye of Ethel Whitty and Jacquie Forbes-Roberts in Community Services.

In the Dec. 15/06 issue of the Carnegie Newsletter — shortly before Simpson was barred the first time — editor Paul Taylor called the DTES Enquirer blogger a “blog bozo”, “slimy”, a “blank”, a “four year old spoiled brat pissing his pants”, a “pest”. The blogger was further described as a “neighborhood snitch”, a “dismal excuse”.

Taylor praised Board member Bob Sarti in the newsletter for his role in what Carnegie members have described as a witch hunt for a blogger (by then Bill Simpson had been falsely identified as the blogger): “Bob is one of the unsung heroes for getting to the bottom of this guy’s attempts to remain anonymous….” Sarti, who for years wrote under pseudonyms in the Carnegie Newsletter, had earned a reputation for wagging his finger in Simpson’s face in the corridor and hollering, “Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie! — prompting Simpson to write to Whitty to request that she call off the “mad dog”.

On the City’s official website, the Community Services page identifying Forbes-Roberts as the department head, features a link to the Carnegie Newsletter. A link? Isn’t that what she barred Simpson for?

To read the complete story entitled, “City on ‘weak, weak ground’ in barring elected blogger”, go to Downtown Eastside Enquirer

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