A number of letters from constituents addressed to the Central Coast Regional District are shown to have been written by Area E Director David Anderson, with at least one signee unaware of what his letter contained.
The letters had much the same introduction and conclusion, extensively cited the Local Government Act and CCRD policy matters, and were all written in a nearly identical format.
The letters were all addressed to Acting CAO Donna Mikkelson, and requested that each matter referenced in the letter be placed on the agenda at the upcoming November 15 Board meeting. Topics were widespread, ranging from questions about financial records, contract negotiations, awarded contracts, and corporate policies, as well as questions about alleged harassment amongst employees and contractors.
While all the letters contained overwhelming similarities and near verbatim language, there were also some glaring errors. Three letters misspelled the signatory’s names, and two were submitted and received by the Board even though they were not signed.
The Coast Mountain News managed to contact three of the five signatories of these letters, all of whom reside in Director Anderson’s electoral area.
In a telephone conversation, one signatory, Jeromy Andy, confirmed that Director Anderson wrote the letter for him after he expressed concern about a lack of employment in the Valley.
Andy willingly signed the letter, but when questioned on its content, he could not verify what the letter was about. When informed that there were four other letters bearing much of the exact same text and all submitted at the same meeting, he appeared taken aback.
Barney Kern also verified that Director Anderson wrote a letter for him, and, although he didn’t read the letter, he was firm that he collaborated with Director Anderson on its content and was fully supportive of the letter he signed.
Kern did not feel that Director Anderson had stepped out of line by writing these letters. “David Anderson is serving the interests of his constituents,” Kern stated.
A third signatory, John Aldred, also confirmed that Director Anderson wrote the letter for him. However, when questioned on its content, Aldred said his letter was about the landfill, when, in fact, the letter never addressed that topic at all. His letter was submitted without a signature.
CCRD Board Chair Brian Lande said he believes that it’s ‘inappropriate’ of Director Anderson to write these letters, and indicated that this is not the first time the Board has dealt with this particular issue.
“There are real issues facing the CCRD right now, and these are not being dealt with,” said Director Lande. “Replying to these letters takes time and resources away from Directors and staff, who have much more important matters to attend to.”
Alternate Director Archie Pootlass said that he also made the assumption there was one writer behind all five letters, and this is a concern for him as an Alternate Director. “It appears that Director Anderson is the writer,” Pootlass said. “Director Tallio and I plan to speak with him about it.”
While this is not a criminal matter, Patrick Smith, Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, says that past examples have proven public tolerance for this type of conduct is low.
In 1998, former B.C. MLA Paul Reitsma, after an expose by the Parksville Morning Sun, had to admit he wrote a series of letters to the editor attacking political rivals and praising himself. Reitsma was kicked out of the B.C. Liberal caucus, and resigned one day before a successful recall campaign could oust him.
While this case is quite different in that the letters Director Anderson wrote were willingly signed by others, Smith said the Reitsma case demonstrated that the public does not appreciate misrepresentation, especially by those in political office.
“We have to ask ourselves, would a reasonably well-informed person be upset by this?” said Smith. “The answer is ‘yes,’ they probably would.”
The Coast Mountain News attempted several times to contact the remaining two parties who submitted letters to the November 15 board meeting, but phone calls to their homes were not returned. Director Anderson was also contacted several times by phone and email, but he did not respond.
The CCRD passed five motions at the November 15 Board Meeting directing CCRD staff to respond to these letters. These minutes are available online at www.ccrd-bc.ca and copies of the letters can be requested from the CCRD office.