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BREAKING: Report details misuse of government resources

A review led by Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister John Dyble found the controversial multicultural outreach strategy involved two serious breaches of the public service's standards of conduct and the misuse of government resources.

Clark said she had shown leadership by ordering the review and that the BC Liberal Party has written a $70,000 cheque to reimburse the government for the misused resources. "This document isn't easy reading for any of us in government," she said.

The report singled out the work of Brian Bonney, who was the communications director for multiculturalism from October 2011 to Feb. 21, 2013.

"Brian Bonney did not create a clear distinction between his volunteer role with the BC Liberal Party and his role in government," it said. "Based on the evidence, it would appear to a reasonable person that he may have spent up to half of his time on partisan activities."

In his time with the government, he was paid $124,000, a finance ministry official said. While working for the government he forwarded over 1,100 emails from his government account to one of three personal email accounts, the report said.

Clark's former deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, has already resigned for her role in creating the strategy that included using government resources to attract ethnic voters to the BC Liberals. The report says she convened the original meeting to develop the strategy.

Mike Lee, who was executive assistant to Harry Bloy and to John Yap when each was responsible for multiculturalism, resigned today. Lee was until this morning executive assistant to Justice Minister Shirley Bond.

The report looks at the hiring of caucus outreach workers and community liaison contractors. It makes it clear Lee and Bonney helped some of the applicants with the minister's knowledge and that he knew that involvement was inappropriate.

In a June 28, 2012 email, Lee wrote to Yap and copied Bonney who was away on holiday. "Minister -- just finished reviewing all the RFQs from our 3 liaisons," he wrote. "I have send [sic] them reminder emails to double check their application and ultimately check for any trace of I and Brian's involvement. It is absolutely critical that we do not leave any evidence in us helping them through this application. Other than that lets hope these applications make it to the final round!"

Yap responded: "I appreciate each of your efforts with the 3 RFQs. Great job. Let's now hope for the best. J."

The report also said Yap believed Lee was circumventing freedom of information laws: "When Minister Yap was asked why his former Communications Director was using personal email for this correspondence, he said that it was to avoid freedom of information."

The review found little of the multicultural outreach plan had been implemented, but went into some detail about how staff used information collected at roundtable meetings with members of ethnic communities.

Fiera Lo, who had been an executive assistant to Yap and a former BC Liberal Party employee, collected names at those meetings.

"Email records show that Fiera Lo sent three packages of lists of individuals who had been attending events with Minister Yap to her personal email account on March 4, 2013," it said. "Of note, prior to joining government, Fiera Lo was an employee of the BC Liberal Party and attended the December 1st, 2011 meeting in that capacity, and was given the assignment of 'ethnic lists'. Email records also show that Brian Bonney was emailing similar lists to his personal email account."

The government had been receiving complaints about how those names were used, it said. "Between September 26, 2012, and early October ministry staff received at least three different anonymous calls suggesting that Brian Bonney and Fiera Lo asked roundtable participants to provide personal information and information about their members. One caller was angry because after attending the meeting and providing personal information, she claimed to have subsequently received political materials at her home.

"Another caller alleged that she was told that grants to her organization would be at risk if events were not scheduled for the Minister. One of the callers also indicated that she was pressured not to report her concern to government."

Clark said Yap would not be returning to cabinet. Yap said he intends to run in the May 14 election.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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