|When politicians goof, we all pay for it|
By Les Leyne|
Times Colonist - Victoria and Vancouver Island
Taxpayers shelled out $245,000 to a failed casino developer 11 years after the notorious scandal over the gambling licence in Burnaby brought down former premier Glen Clark.
A recently released annual report of all the legal settlements made by the government of B.C. brought the old story -in which New Democratic Party leadership candidates Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth figured prominently -to light once again.
The payout was authorized by government lawyers to avoid a claim based on malfeasance and negligence.
The recipient of the payout is a numbered company that submitted a casino plan for a Burnaby location when the government put out a request for proposals in 1998.
Another company, headed by a neighbour of then-premier Clark, also submitted a plan. Clark's relationship with that proponent eventually turned into a scandal that forced him to resign.
It also brought the process of selecting a new charity casino proposal in Burnaby to a crashing halt. That appears to be the basis for a legal claim fled by the first proponent -471438 B.C. Ltd., a company owned by businessman Derrick Luu.
Clark was charged with breach of trust and acquitted in 2002. His neighbour, Dimitrios Pilarinos, was convicted and sentenced to house arrest.
The claim by the numbered company was filed in 2004 and quietly proceeded to the settlement stage over the years.
The settlement payment to Luu's company was made in March 2010. The explanation was that the company had made a claim against the government based on "alleged negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, negligence and misfeasance in public office, arising from the rejection of the plaintiff's ... proposal for a casino in Burnaby, in 1998."
The notice said that a government lawyer advised that in his opinion the plaintiff might be successful in its claim.
So it was deemed in the public interest to settle the claim. It included interest, taxable costs and disbursements.
Dix was Clark's chief of staff at the time the scandal erupted and was found to have backdated a memo that purported to state Clark wanted no involvement in deciding the fate of the applications.
Farnworth was a cabinet minister responsible for the casino decision. Although he was grilled extensively and had to testify at conflict of interest and criminal proceedings, he was never directly implicated in the scandal.
The settlement was noted in a report on the Crown Proceeding Act, which was tabled during the brief sitting of the legislature last month.
It's likely the final postscript on the bizarre saga of Clark's downfall.
Taxpayers also may take a hit arising from the 2009 general election. Four public sector unions took the government to court over the limits on third-party advertising during the campaign.
The BCGEU, BCTF, CUPE and a post-secondary educators' union won the right to advertise as they saw fit.
They claimed for costs and reached a deal last year. The government has paid them $125,000, but since the constitutional case is still under appeal, the unions have agreed to return the funds if the government wins the appeal.
The unions can still retain the money if they get a court order requiring the payment, regardless.
Government lawyers said in the settlement report that the unions might be successful in their claim, so it was deemed in the public interest to reach the deal.
Polygamist Winston Blackmore also secured a $40,000 settlement in the last year, courtesy of the taxpayers.
Blackmore was charged with polygamy in 2009 after then-attorney general Wally Oppal finally found a special prosecutor -on his third try -willing to take on the case. But the case was dropped after Blackmore won his argument that Oppal had no authority to appoint a special prosecutor.
The subsequent proceedings are on a constitutional reference question.
After winning his case, Blackmore pitched a claim for $70,000 in special costs against the government.
Lawyers for the government advised settling for $40,000, which was paid a year ago.
There's a common thread in the Blackmore and Burnaby casino payouts. Politicians sometimes screw up or make bad judgment calls, and move on. But the taxpayers will always be there to deal with the fallout.
Originally published March 3, 2011
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