Barnes loan controversy continues to attract media attention

Post by Mike Klassen in

11 comments


CTV must speak to a "Vision Vancouver spokesperson" to get answers on a decision to spend public money

First of all, we must commend Vancouver's media for probing more deeply into the troubling case of Vision Vancouver Park Commissioner Constance Barnes' driving while intoxicated, and the subsequent shyness of her caucus members around questions of who funded Barnes' summer retreat to kick alcoholism.

CTV's Stephen Smart brings the controversy to the small screen on tonight's news broadcast (see video), revealing that Barnes' treatment cost $18,000, and the City of Vancouver provided a $3,000 loan to pay for it. CityCaucus.com were asked to comment for tonight's story, and we asked why there has been so little transparency by this party who campaigned on a more open style of government.

We should remind our readers that the typical annual compensation for a Park Commissioner is a modest $8,000 stipend, with an additional $4,000 tax-free for expenses. It's unclear what the terms of repayment of the loan by the City are, other than it will be drawn out of her Park Board stipend.

What is clear, none of the elected officials from Vision Vancouver are being allowed to speak on this issue. Not even Barnes herself has spoken publicly after contradicting herself in an interview with CKNW's Janet Brown. Vision are sending PR flacks out to defend Barnes instead.

City Hall watchers note that the Vision Vancouver organization, who ended last November's election campaign $250,000 in the hole, seem to have no shortage of money for staff and public relations. Back in June, former Gregor Robertson Constituency Assistant for Vancouver-Fairview Mira Oreck, now a member of the Vision Vancouver executive, and who also began working with James Hoggan & Associates earlier this year, spoke on behalf of Vision Vancouver on all questions relating to the Barnes drunk driving & car crash into a south Vancouver house.

Now today Ian Baillie, formerly Robertson's media handler on the fall election campaign, is back on Vision's payroll. What all the attempts at spin control do not answer is, why the party is being asked to respond to questions about decisions made by the Park Board and City of Vancouver to pay for Barnes' treatment? Surely, Vision Vancouver should be speaking to this issue when it involves the use of public funds.

NPA Park Commissioner Ian Robertson says he's been kept in the dark all along on Barnes' loan. He takes a harder line:

“What concerns me more is that she’s been inconsistent and evasive in dealing with this whole issue,” he said.

Robertson says that Barnes actions such as missing all of her court dates, and her evasive responses on whether she'll plead no contest to the charges against her, signify that she's not really taking responsibility for her actions. He also says she should have never taken the loan.

Vision Vancouver are no doubt counting on the dog days of summer to distract the public away from this issue. They'll continue to work hard to keep Barnes' reckless act apart from other Vision elected officials. But if I were to make a bet, the public's interest in this story is only just beginning.

11 Comments

What? They have how many elected officials in the Vision caucus and they need to hire a spokesperons to speak to the media? What a joke this party has become in such a short time.

Klassen: if you're going to be on the Teevee, WEAR PANTS!
Have a little dignity, for godssake.

Doesn't the City pay for "treatment" for its employees. I know such treatment is in some union contracts. Maybe the $3,000 was to cover her personal expenses while in treatment.

Dude, I was working in the garden when CTV called. You're lucky I had a shirt on.

The biggest story from this story is that it was broken by Alex Tsakumis of 24hours and you pretended that you broke it or someone else did. I know from reading some of his comments on other blogs that he does not think much of your blog, but I have also read in his columns that he liked your coverage on other issues and gave you major props for that. Are you so thin skinned that you cannot give proper credit? Integrity is pretty key in journalism even on the internet. I have no expectation that you are even honest enough to allow for this comment to be posted so I will make it elsewhere too.

A fairly glaring omission from this newscast is the fact that the loan was apparently only for $3,000, although one would think from the tape that it was $18,000. Of course that's a sexier story.

It's not much of a story if it really teased out that the only money us besieged tax payers lost is the lack of interest on a $3000 dollar loan for maybe a year or so, which at the City's borowing rate of 4 percent or so would be...$120!!!

You mean I had to pay a fortieth of a cent for one of my elected officials to be able to get back to work?!?!?! What would we do without Tsakumis the rest of the NPA looking out for our tax dollars...I mean tax cent-fractions?

I think we mentioned it was for $3000. Michael, not once in our posts relating to the Barnes DUI have we suggested that she should not receive any support or care for her alcoholism. A closer read would show that we're puzzled by the many ways Vision Vancouver have tried to sweep this under the rug. One day this treatment is out of pocket, the next it's being supported by a loan from the city. VV send out a PR flack to discuss it, rather than a caucus member who is accountable for the expense.

Vision are to blame for their own incompetence in dealing with this crisis within their ranks. This is not about how much money loaned to Barnes.

It's our understanding that the story resulted from the work of Janet Brown from CKNW News, but we thank you for adding some perspective on the origins of this sad tale.

"A closer read" of my comment would indicate that I was referring to the "newscast" not to your post. The newscast (not your post) was principally referring to the money without giving detail (including the $3,000 figure) or perspective.

But if there is little or no expense why does someone at VV have to be accountable?
And I've asked this elsewhere but I'll ask here as well: If this loan is like any other benefit or part of an assistance plan available to other members or employees is their an obligation for the Parks Board to keep the information confidential? Just asking.

Tsakumis broke the story on Wednesday afternoon.

Janet Brown and NW covered it in the later evening and it wasn't until the next morning that they went into it full on.

Why don't you ask her?

Can't you guys just get along?

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