Has Penny Ballem interfered in Pandora inquest timing? Robertson weighs in

Post by Mike Klassen in


Is Penny Ballem watching Gregor Robertson's back this time? photo: The Province

Gregor Robertson says "there's nothing political about this"

UPDATE #2: More gold from CKNW news reporter Charmaine de Silva. In the second part of her interview Mayor Gregor states that we shouldn't complain about the delay of the Pandora Street coroner's inquest, because by comparision the public inquiry into the DTES missing women matter took years to get underway. Robertson says:

"Well, there's been a lot of, a lot of uh horrendous tragedies that have taken many years before there was a coroner's inquest and you look at the missing women tragedy as a... that's one that's finally coming into that process."

Here's the second clip from CKNW with that interview (mp3):

UPDATE #1: CKNW reporter Charmaine de Silva continues her series of exclusive news reports on the question of the timing surrounding the Pandora Street coroner's inquest. The first of two reports led the 11am news broadcast today. In the interview Mayor Gregor says that categorically that there has been no political interference in the decision to delay the inquest until AFTER the 2011 election.

The Mayor insists that the choice was made because staff would have been too pre-occupied with the election. Asked by de Silva what numbers of staff might actually be involved in a coroner's inquest, Robertson responded:

"I don't know. It depends on how the coroner runs the process. So, it'll depend on what it is, or how long. I don't know how many City staff would be involved." Here is the full report from CKNW news (mp3):

Continuing with our original post...

On Sunday evening, CKNW news reported breaking news that the City of Vancouver, at the recommendation of City Manager Penny Ballem, has coordinated with the BC Coroner's office to hold an inquest into the Pandora Street deaths nine days AFTER the November 2011 election campaign.

Reporter Charmaine de Silva got the scoop on Sunday's newscast that you can listen to here (mp3):

The November 28th date set for the inquest was one of two provided to Ballem. The other date provided by the Coroner's office was October 28th. A statement from the City claims that Ballem and the City solicitor chose the date in order to reduce the possible stress to staff during the election period.

The Pandora Street fire and the deaths of flophouse residents Garland McKay, Dwayne Rasmussen and Stephen Yellowquill has been clouded by one controversy after another since the fatal blaze took place on December 22nd.

First, Mayor Gregor Robertson, who used the fiery death of a homeless man – Darrell Mickasko – as his stated motivation for running for mayor, tweeted bon voyage just hours after the blaze took place. Robertson didn't stick around long enough to even cobble together a statement from his office about the tragedy. Family time beckoned apparently.

Vision Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson made misleading remarks to the media that action was "imminent" on the Pandora flophouse. Vision Councillor Kerry Jang repeated those misleading remarks in a CKNW radio interview (mp3).

Penny Ballem returned from her own Christmas break and corrected the record after the confusion created by Johnson and Jang. Then Mayor Gregor slipped back into town, still refusing all media requests to discuss the Pandora Street affair.

Coun. Suzanne Anton called publicly for an independent inquiry on the sequence of events surrounding Pandora Street. Robertson and Vision relented somewhat to the pressure, and called for the Coroner's office to get involved.

Then on January 27th CityCaucus.com broke the news of Property Use Manager and 38-year employee Carlene Robbins suddenly leaving her job at the City of Vancouver. We said that she was the City's fall gal for the Pandora mess. We also reported that Robbins would be suing the City, and had that confirmed just days later.

I proposed that the City of Vancouver would try to silence Robbins with a pay out as they had with Judy Rogers' gag clause and with former Chief Electrician Ark Tsisserev. Looks like Robbins has chosen to take the City to the mat for humiliating her – see the court documents here. Then we had the sudden resignation of Mark Roozbahani, another senior manager in Licenses and Inspections, who was hired just weeks before the Pandora tragedy.

Now we have Penny Ballem appearing to interfere with the timing of the inquest into McKay, Rasmussen and Yellowquill's deaths.

The City's statement about the City Manager discussing this matter with the Solicitor strongely suggests that this civil servant made a political decision, not a compassionate or a just one. The families of those three men are already forced to wait for months, without so much as an expression of empathy from the Mayor who once used a dead person as an excuse to quit Victoria.

Penny Ballem is the hand-picked employee of Gregor Robertson and Mike Magee. If Vision Vancouver's political fortunes sag as much as the NPA's need to rise, there is one person who would have a very large target on her back the day after the election – the City Manager. You can bet that's not lost on Penny.

The Pandora Street inquiry if it had been held during the election could have revealed what having a Vision Vancouver City Hall truly means. But it looks like we won't get that chance, now will we?

Vision Vancouver appears to have already their campaign manager for the 2011 campaign – her name is Ballem.

If there is any evidence of political interference in this serious matter, we can at least take solace in the fact that with eight months to go before an election, it increases the odds that someone may find it.

- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen or @CityCaucus on Twitter.


Robertson sure sounds confident about his theory regarding there being no political influence on this decision, doesn't he? Comparing this to the missing women is classic Gregor.

Politics on the backs of the weak and the poor..

Very sad,not only for the deceased, but the loved ones left behind....grieving without answers..

Mayor says inquest timing "not political"

Charmaine de Silva | Email news tips to charmaine.desilva@corusent.com

Vancouver's mayor is denying being involved in the decision to hold a coroners' inquest into the Pandora Street fire after the next election.

Gregor Robertson says the city does not get to choose dates for coroners' inquests.

He says there is nothing political about the process, and it's up to the coroner to select the date.

But city staff were offered two choices for the inquest, one before the November 19th election and one after.

Robertson says staff wanted the later date because the election would occupy much of their time...but how many staff are working on the inquest?

The mayor says he doesn't know, and it depends on how the coroner runs the process.

He insists no one on council advised City Manager Penny Ballem on this issue.

The coroner's inquest into the fire that killed three men will begin on November 28th.

As much as I like to slam Vision on some things, I will say about this.
We have had flop houses in Vancouver for years and years and years.
We (in the neighbourhood I live in) couldn't get three of them dealt with (can't count how many councils we've had)

The issues are usually:
(addiction,mental health ,poverty, bad landlords)

Add the bureaucracy of the City (plus the lawyers of the slumlords) and you have a recipe for disaster.

To compare the murder in cold blood of more than sixty women at the hand of a psychopath to the tragic death of three men at the hand of an incompetent, corrupt to the bone, pack of bureaucrats and politicians with the education level of a chimpanzee is despicable and wrong and disgusting on so many levels. Robertson makes me puke in my mouth every single time I see his name in print or I hear him talking on the radio. I already shut down the TV . Delaying the start of the inquiry is an act of cowardliness which means one thing - guilty as charged. This delay won't get you reelected you Major Phony!

It's FOI time again. Dig up who actually made this inquest date selection. Who's going to be the first to demand copies of all emails, letters, phone messages, meetings, appointments etc., between the coroner, city legal department, human resources, any staff, city clerk, city manager, (barf), and the propeller head, soon to be ex-mayor? Does this coroner have anything to hide? Any connection with Ballem we wonder?

My boyfriend lives in Surrey.

A few years ago, his neighbour across the back alley had rented a basement suite to a couple. Turns out they were crackheads, who in-turn moved 2 other men in with them. It was insane, the yelling fights that took place in the alley during all hours of the night - the items that would be dragged to the house. We would watch sit on the patio and watch them strip wire.

The owners tried to get these people out, legally, as lo and behold, they didn't pay any rent. And there was a language issue as the owners were Indo, where their two kids spoke English, but the parents not so much, and the renters were white.

The little girl would come to our house and ask for help, the kids would not go outside, the renters gave the little granny trouble when she would be hanging up the laundry etc.

The police would come, the police would leave.

My boyfriend was having work done in the back yard and the person doing the work could not get his truck down the alley for all the stuff that had 'gathered'. And when asked to move the stuff, the woman 'renter' threatened our worked with a hammer.

Long and short, after dealing with this for months (summer months) I sent an e-mail to Mayor Watts. Guess what, within 2 weeks these people were gone.
The baliffs came in, moved their stuff out of the house and then some group showed up to help them go into shelter somewhere else.

The damage done to the suite was somewhere around $10,000. It was a complete wreck. They even took the toilet out.

The Thought of The Evening

"John Kennedy's Inquest took years to start, more years to evolve, and we still don't have a clue of what happened. Some say it was the ‘lone-nut’ job of Lee Harvey Oswald, I say he had help from OJ Simpson”

Comrade Grigori has got a good case on his hands, my friends.
Yes. I'd say it's a conspiracy put together by occult forces out to get him. What I worry about is, after they'll get him, and after they’ll ‘interview’ him, what are they going to do with him, 'cause... he’ll be exposed as useless. That's what I call a conundrum.

What about Penny?
I know Penny abandoned her first calling as a medical doctor for a more fulfilling career in administration, helping others with their property taxes, garbage disposal, parking fees, and street work in general, the occasional tree removal , hunted property ghost busting, or for her deep knowledge of the Blackjack.
We know that when she was hired, she was hired not for her brains, no they went after her body. Body of work, that is. I still think she is as brilliant as they come.

And when the Mayor said that they preferred to start the inquest after the election so that the city staff can concentrate on the...election during... the election, was he referring to the two dozens or so of new Hollyhock hires?
I’m just saying.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy

Robertson's attempt to use the missing women tragedy as a smoke screen made me think of the kind of utterly inappropriate remark a socially inept teenager might make, except the average teenager would have the excuse of immaturity and the good grace to apologise. Over and over again it's the little things that tell you everything about people

@ David:

I truly wonder how much Robertson knows about what is going on.

I can't help but think that he may be kept in the dark by is handlers because if you listen to his responses on too many topics of importance it is either 'I was told this....' or a complete inapporiate or deer in the headlight statement.

Talking about systemic change, the Pandora (non)inquest is the tip of the iceberg. From the Victoria Times-Colonist, March 17th...

B.C.'s Coroners Service is being audited to determine if it is properly doing its job.

The Auditor General's office confirmed Thursday that it has launched a wide-ranging probe into the quasi-independent organization.

"The audit will focus on the operations of the B.C. Coroners Service, and whether it is meeting its mandate in an efficient, effective, timely and independent manner," the Auditor General's website said.

Auditors will also explore whether the coroners service is finishing its death investigations, inquests and reviews in a timely and accurate manner, and whether the organization knows if its recommendations and public reporting have resulted in changes that improve public safety and prevent deaths.

The coroners service investigates unnatural, sudden, unexplained or unexpected deaths. It has unique powers enshrined in law to conduct inquests and convene juries to examine cases.

The service was rocked in December by the sudden departure of chief coroner Dr. Diane Rothon. She cited a disagreement with government over the future of the organization.

Her resignation led to calls from former chief coroners that the service should be made independent from political interference.

It also emerged that the organization has faced years of budget woes, wage and expense freezes, pressure to reduce inquests, delays in providing death information and reports to agencies such as the independent children's representative, and had crafted a preliminary plan to eliminate some of its high-profile identification and child death review units to save money.

Then solicitor general Rich Coleman insisted there was no problem or plan to cut any unit. He rejected the calls for independence.

The province hired former coroner Lisa Lapointe as the new chief coroner in February. Lapointe has said she will co-operate with the audit because it may help the organization improve its practices.

The audit's final report should be finished by June, said Auditor General John Doyle in a recent letter to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The civil liberties group had asked the provincial ombudsman for an investigation into Rothon's departure, but that has been put on hold while Doyle conducts his work.

Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/life/Auditor+General+office+launches+audit+Coroners+Service/4460770/story.html#ixzz1HNRymPEF

Mike, have you ever thought of having a caption competition for some of your funnier photographs?

My suggestion for this one is, "Who cut the cheese?"

Common Max, common now.
If the guy doesn't know what is going on, he's an idiot. If the guy does know, he's just another crooked politician. Take your pick.


Something to go with your suggestion, which I am backing 100%.


you are the best! you always put a smile on my face...


Just wondering who the wizard is behind the screen.....




City staff is supposed to be NEUTRAL, not partisan.
It's also why we have this problem for at least 30 years.
Flop houses,etc should have been dealt with under by-laws.
The staff has been as much as a problem as the politicians
How will this look in the media?
Will this stand up in court?
Will our legal department accept it?

Drug addicts and dealers running around Vancouver?
Slumlords who know it!

Not our problem!

We are bureaucracy!
Another department.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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