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The Deck that Collapsed a Premier

Glen Clark's neighbourly 'act of folly.' Latest of 'Some Honourable Members' series.

By Tom Hawthorn 13 May 2013 |

Veteran political reporter Tom Hawthorn is writing about B.C. political history for The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

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Illustration by Jessie Donaldson.

[Editor's note: This is the twentieth in our "Some Honourable Members" series, depicting the more dubious moments in B.C.'s political history, brought to you by veteran muckrakers Tom Barrett and Tom Hawthorn, one a day until election day.]

Police knocked on the door of a modest home on Anzio Drive in Vancouver's east side. At home was Dale Clark, a teacher, and her two young children. Three officers from the RCMP's local commercial crime unit delivered a search warrant. They were looking for evidence relating to the granting of a charity casino license.

Also on hand -- a reporter and a cameraman from BCTV.

An hour into the raid, NDP premier Glen Clark returned to the family home, slipping into the house through the back door to avoid the camera out front. But the television station news crew had another camera in a van in the alley behind the premier's house, which caught the indelible image -- shot through a window of the family home -- of the premier pacing and looking perplexed.

A neighbour, Dimitrios Pilarinos, was being investigated for running an illegal gambling operation known as The Lumbermen's Social Club at the North Burnaby Inn, a strip club favoured by members of the Hells Angels biker gang. Steve Ng, the inn's owner, was a business partner with Pilarinos in an effort to get a casino licence.

Pilarinos had a friendly relationship with the Clark family. Their children played together. A contractor by trade, he had also built a sundeck for the Clarks on the Anzio Drive home and at a family cottage near Penticton. The police believed the decks had been gifts from the contractor in exchange for favourable handing of his casino application. During the raid at Clark's home, police missed a stack of cancelled cheques to Pilarinos. Clark's lawyer delivered the stack to police believing the evidence of payment for his work would exonerate the premier.

After the raid, Clark said he had deliberately asked his staff "to ensure I was insulated" from any matters relating to the casino application from his neighbour. Aides also distributed a memo, written by Adrian Dix, who was then Clark's chief of staff and is the current leader of the NDP, stating the premier's acknowledgment of Pilarinos as a friend and his request to be recused from the process. The memo, notable for its sloppy punctuation and for misspelling the neighbour's name, was dated July 17, 1998. It would become the most infamous memo in the province's history.

Clark resigned as premier in 1999 after police confirmed he was subject of an investigation. He was charged with breach of trust and accepting a benefit of more than $10,000. After a lengthy trial, he was acquitted on both counts, though the judge admonished him for his "poor judgment" in hiring Pilarinos. The judge described Clark's misbehaviour as an "act of folly."

It was while testifying under oath in B.C. Supreme Court during Clark's trial that Dix admitted his memo had been deliberately backdated.

The memo, described as a forgery by political rivals, was featured in an advertising campaign prior to this month's election.

Clark went on to become a successful executive with the Jim Pattison Group, while Dix revived his own political career and is favoured by polls to be premier after the May 14 election.

Pilarinos was convicted of fraud and influence peddling. By the time he was sentenced to house arrest and community service, his marriage had ended, he was unemployed, and he was living with relatives.  [Tyee]

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