The B.C. Liberal Party returned $70,000 of misspent taxpayer money, and a third government official resigned, in the wake of a scathing report into the ethnic outreach scandal that continued to rock the Liberal government on Thursday.
Numerous public officials breached standards of conduct and misused government resources in preparing a multicultural outreach plan that targeted ethnic voters, Premier Christy Clark’s deputy minister John Dyble concluded.
Dyble’s report said there were several “serious” breaches of public duty, including a government communications director who spent considerable time doing party work, and numerous officials who used private emails to keep hidden partisan work.
“I will not hide from responsibility for this, and that’s why I asked for the review, and that’s why we’re going to follow all the recommendations,” Clark told reporters, while offering yet another public apology.
The multicultural outreach plan was leaked to the Opposition NDP this month, and sparked controversy for the government, not only because of the misuse of resources, but also because it described government apologies for historic wrongs to ethnic communities as “quick wins” for the B.C. Liberal Party.
Clark’s deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad — who Dyble said oversaw the plan — resigned soon after the leak.
Multiculturalism Minister John Yap quit cabinet earlier this month.
Mike Lee, Yap’s former executive assistant, also tendered his resignation, the premier said Thursday.
Lee wrote an email to Yap from his personal account saying, “It is absolutely critical that we do not leave any evidence” in helping hire three multicultural community liaisons, whom Yap knew and was trying to help get jobs, according to Dyble’s report.
Giving preferential treatment to candidates was a serious breach of Lee’s government oath, Dyble concluded.
The government later paid one contractor $6,800 for work done in good faith, though it never signed the contracts.
Yap acknowledged the widespread use of personal emails by government officials was an attempt to avoid the Freedom of Information law, Dyble’s report said.
Yap apologized Thursday for failing to meet the standards of a cabinet minister.
“I made a mistake here, and I’m owning up to it,” he said. “I’ve learned the hard way that was not appropriate.”
Dyble’s report also said former government communications director Brian Bonney committed several serious breaches, and might have spent half the time in his taxpayer-paid job doing partisan work for the B.C. Liberal Party.
The $70,000 party repayment covered some of Bonney’s salary, as well as the $6,800 consultant termination fee.
The government’s comptroller general is also investigating to see if additional money needs to be repaid. Clark said the party will pay more, if necessary.
The Opposition NDP jumped on the report, saying the scandal involved anonymous whistleblowers who weren’t listened to, and community groups that tried to express concerns but were warned they might not get government grants.
“What we have here is the Liberal caucus, the premier’s office, a minister of the Crown and a senior communications director using their offices day after day after day to collect information from citizens and transmit it to the B.C. Liberal Party,” Horgan said.
A second review by Liberal caucus chairman Gordon Hogg concluded some caucus staff played minor roles but they won’t be disciplined.