Who provided the anonymous brown envelope that mysteriously landed in Township Mayor Rick Green’s rural mail box?
It is a key question that remains unanswered, following council’s release of the Lidstone Report on Monday. Many names have been blocked out of the report.
But what the Lidstone Report does make clear is that Green misled his own council and misled three legal counsel about when he first learned about Brownshak Developments
Lidstone and Co., the Township’s legal firm, was asked to probe inconsistencies in the mayor’s story about the discovery of the anonymous documents in the brown envelope, which focused on a company called Brownshak.
Green alleged that the documents might support allegations of improper conduct by Brownshak and its principals.
Brownshak was a limited company owned by the wives of MLA Rich Coleman, realtors Joel Schacter and Bob Bailey, and Township administrator Mark Bakken.
The principals relinquished their assets in 2005.
When the Brownshak issue first came up in 1996, then-Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ted Hughes found that allegations of conflict against Coleman, then a newly-elected MLA, were without foundation. A separate legal opinion by Lidstone and Co. came to the same conclusion as Hughes, as did the Township’s legal counsel of the day, that there was no wrongdoing by the principals or their spouses.
After he received the brown envelope, Green called an emergency meeting of council, saying that there would be no staff present. The Lidstone report notes that one councillor, whom the report does not name, was puzzled why Green would call the meeting that barred staff.
Bakken and Township staff were caught by surprise. According to the report, Bakken had no knowledge of Green’s emergency, in-camera meeting.
Green called it for Oct. 29, 2009.
There was “significant speculation and angst” at Township hall that day, the report observed, because staff were to be excluded from the evening meeting, and were in the dark about its purpose.
When they learned that Green had in his hands on documents pointing to a possible conflict of interest concerning Bakken, councillors were puzzled.
Councillor Jordan Bateman told Green that all Brownshak principals and their spouses had been exonerated.
Green described the in-camera session as the “meeting from hell” but said that in retrospect, he would not handle the matter any differently.
The Lidstone Report said that Green called the closed meeting “because he did not want to tip off staff or the ‘regular solicitors’ and felt that he could not talk to Bateman about this alone, given what he regarded as a personal connection of Councillor Bateman to one of the shareholders.”
This is an apparent reference to Coleman, for whom Bateman did publicity work. Until last autumn, Bateman was also president of the Fort Langley-Aldergrove Liberal Riding Association.
The report goes on to explain Green’s rationale for excluding the Township’s top bureaucrat: “Since the matter was about the administrator (Bakken), it was not necessary to go through the administrator in regard to setting up the meeting or discussing the matter.”
According to Lidstone, Green said that an audit of the Township’s real estate department had never been done, and if Bakken was involved for private gain, “there was a prima facie necessity for a review.”
The mayor said he was not accusing Bakken, “and felt that the administrator had been forthcoming.”
Bakken declined to comment on Tuesday, pointing to council’s resolution which lifted the lid off the Lidstone Report. The resolution stipulates that comments to the media can only come from council members and Lidstone lawyers.
The Times was one of several parties that had requested the release of the report, which was issued in May, 2010.
Don Lidstone, QC., concluded in his report that Township Mayor Rick Green misled three lawyers and his own council.
Green misled council when he called the sudden in-camera meeting of Oct. 29, 2009, to share what he claimed was new information he had just received in an anonymous envelope.
In fact, Lidstone concluded, Green had received it more than two months earlier, on Aug. 4, 2009.
Therefore, there was no justification for the emergency meeting.
The Lidstone Report concluded that:
“1. The mayor expressly mentioned Brownshak to a third party, who then accessed corporate information about Brownshak and provided this to the mayor on Aug. 4, 2009, two months before the Mayor purportedly received this information anonymously for the first time in his mailbox on Oct. 28, 2009;
“2: Between Aug. 4 and Aug. 5, the third party sent to the mayor the Aug. 5 Brownshak company search that the mayor released at the Oct. 29, 2009 council meeting, and provided the mayor information about the Brownshak registered and records offices;
“3: On Sept. 2, 2009, the third party emailed to the mayor the Brownshak Central Securities Register;
“4: The lawyer in whose offices the Brownshak Central Securities Register resided, has stated that only one person accessed the Register, and that this occurred in late August, 2009 — this Register was delivered by the mayor to council at its Oct. 29 meeting;
“5: The company search and Register that the mayor said arrived anonymously in his mailbox to his surprise, and that he disclosed to the emergency special closed council meeting of Oct. 29, 2009, were the same documents obtained by the Mayor in August, 2009;
“6: The mayor misled council when the mayor on Oct. 28 responded to e-mails about the purpose of the emergency meeting and on Oct. 29 stated that he was surprised to receive the brown envelope containing the company search and Register;
“7: The mayor misled Allan Hamilton, when the mayor contacted him on Oct. 28 on the basis of the “surprise brown envelope” to obtain an opinion that he could call the special meeting and exclude the Administrator.”
[Green, having said he did not want to “tip off” the Township’s law firm Lidstone and Company, hired independent counsel Hamilton, whose services were paid for by taxpayers.]
“8: The mayor misled Paul Hildebrand, associate counsel at Lidstone and Co, and the undersigned (Don Lidstone), on Jan. 21, 2009 when he told us his version of the material events.
Green’s action was probed by the RCMP, but special prosecutor David Crossin ruled that charges would be unlikely to lead to a conviction.
The report noted that the register for Brownshak “had been accessed only by one individual and no one else.”
“The lawyer (for the Register) stated that he could only assume that any materials that were delivered to the mayor originated from the office of this third party. This was corroborated in our interview with the mayor,” Lidstone wrote.
In a June, 14, 2010 letter to Don Lidstone, Green said the he had “uncovered something that was an absolute shock to me,” namely that the locks to his mayoral office had not been changed since he was elected.
He said he kept the Brownshak Register information in his office, to which cleaning and maintenance staff, senior staff and department heads had keys.
Lidstone concluded that what Green did was not criminal.
He did, however, recommended that council beef up its oath of office and add other parties to whom the Township’s Code of Ethics currently apply.
While Green did not breach the oath of office, Lidstone recommended updating it so that it is consistent “with the needs and expectations of the Township and its electors in the context of existing legislation and prevailing principles and policies.”
Lidstone noted that the Code of Ethics applies to staff, but not council.
Here is the complete Lidstone report with deletions by the Township