VICTORIA – A review of the B.C. Liberal government’s ethnic outreach strategy has found two “serious breaches” of public service standard of conduct, and evidence that former cabinet minister John Yap was aware of attempts to conceal improper use of government resources.
The report identifies former ministry communications director Brian Bonney as spending about half of his work time on partisan activities. Bonney was paid $124,000 over 18 months, when a group of premier’s office staff and other government employees developed a plan to hire three ethnic outreach contractors.
A September 2012 strategy memo leaked to the NDP detailed a plan to organize ethnic-themed events, apologies for historic wrongs such as the head tax on Chinese immigrants, and efforts to compile lists of ethnic community members for use by the B.C. Liberal Party in the coming election campaign.
Only one contractor began work, and was paid $6,800 before the program was terminated. Both Bonney’s conduct and the hiring of the contractor with a political role are what the report identifies as “serious breaches” of the oath taken by all government employees.
Premier Christy Clark tabled the report by three deputy ministers in the legislature Thursday, vowing to take action on all its recommendations. Clark told reporters the B.C. Liberal Party has paid $70,000 to the government, roughly half of Bonney’s salary plus the amount paid to the contractor.
Clark’s deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, who organized meetings and distributed the strategy memo in September 2012, has already resigned.
The investigation reviewed 10,000 emails from personal and government accounts, and interviewed 27 people over two weeks.
One of the emails is to Yap and Bonney from Yap’s executive assistant, Mike Lee, referring to the hiring of three contractors.
“It is absolutely critical that we do not leave any evidence in us helping them through this application,” Lee wrote on his personal email account, to the personal accounts of the others.
Yap replied: “I appreciate each of your efforts with the three [requests for qualifications]. Great job. Let’s now hope for the best.”
Clark said Yap will not be reappointed to cabinet “at this time.” and another staff member, later identified as Lee, has resigned. Bonney left the public service in February, days before the strategy document and minutes of a meeting called by Haakstad were leaked to the NDP opposition.