20 April 2009

The ghost of Richard Squires: party work with public money

According to the statement of facts in the Ed Byrne case, members of the House of Assembly were reimbursed for expenses incurred while representing their constituents.

In other words, work for a particular political party wouldn’t be covered by the expense accounts.

Here’s paragraph six of the agreed statement:

6. When MHAs incur out of pocket expenses while representing their constituents, they are later reimbursed for these costs from the House of Assembly’s Financial Accounts. During the time period in question, the IEC set the rules on eligible and ineligible expenses, per diem rates, general expense guidelines and actual expense limits related to Travel and Constituency Allowance (TCA) claims.

As outlined by the IEC in its annual report,

“Each Member (of the House of Assembly) is entitled to an accountable constituency allowance. This allowance is for the payment of expenditures incurred in the performance of constituency business and may cover such items as office rental, equipment, supplies, secretarial and other support services, informational material such as newspapers, advertising, purchase of flags, pins, etc.”

That’s one of the reasons why the whole section of the statement dealing with work done by the local law firm White, Ottenheimer, Baker is odd.

Charles White – senior partner with the firm – insists that in 2000 the firm did work for the Progressive Conservative Party for which it billed $10,000. The solicitor who did the work – now provincial Court Judge John Joy also insisted he did work for the party – not the opposition office – on some constitutional issue related to the fishery.

Lawyers aren’t known for being sloppy with their language so when White says that it was the PC Party – and not the opposition office as Byrne is noted as saying – you have to take notice of it.

Charles White confirmed that the law firm did some work for the PC Party in 2000 and that John Joy was the lawyer who did the work. He said they were engaged to do the study by Edward Byrne but the PC Party was their client.

One of the other reasons to look somewhat quizzically at the whole affair is how White says the firm got paid: two personal cheques from Ed Byrne. Not cheques from the party directly; not even cash from the party treasurer, but two personal cheques from the party leader at the time.

Charles White stated that they billed the PC Party $10,000 and they received two payments in the form of personal cheques from Edward
Byrne. One payment was for $4,000 and one payment of $5,000 and they wrote off the remaining $1,000. Charles White stated that this was the only work their law firm did on Edward Byrne's behalf.

When shown two cancelled cheques from Byrne, White confirmed those were the ones received and cashed by the form for work White and Joy say was done for the party.

In the party contributions reports for the calendar year 2000, the chief electoral office shows that Ed Byrne and his wife made donations to the Progressive Conservative Party totalling less than $7,000.

On top of that for the fiscal year ending in 2000, there’s no expense item for the PC Party that comes anywhere close to $10,000, at least not where one might expect to find it.

Now if the report is for the year ending in March 2001 - which would include most of 2000 – there is a PC caucus expense reported of slightly more than $47,000 but that’s pretty clearly attributed to supporting caucus expenses.

It isn’t for what White, Ottenheimer and Baker believed was party work. besides, if the party paid the expense, then why did Byrne bill his legislature accounts for it and pay the tab with a cheque drawn on his own personal accounts.

The line item for professional fees – where you’d expect to find a party expense for legal work – there is only a flat $2,500.

And since we know Byrne billed the $10,000 for White, Ottenheimer Baker to the account covering his constituency and travel bills as the member of the legislature for Kilbride, the whole thing doesn’t appear to be very clear at all.

Now just to be sure, there’s no indication that the old Tory chambers, the PCJ nor any of its barristers and solicitors involved in the firm did anything wrong; nor is there any reason to suspect them of anything.

The problem here is on the party side and the pretty obvious inconsistency with its reports, as presented by the elections office, and required by law under the Elections Acts.

The whole thing looks like something straight out of the old days when political leaders kept their personal accounts in one pants pocket and the party ones in the other.

All this goes a long way to undermining the claim of the current chief electoral officer – and former Tory party president - Paul Reynolds that everything is tickety-boo with election finance reports from his office.

-srbp-

Charlie White/John Joy (Work done by Ottenheimer White and Green)

38. On June 4, 2001, a travel and constituency allowance claim in the amount of $9,000 was submitted by Edward J. Byrne. Attached to this claim was a generic receipt for a payment of $9,000 to Charlie White for contractual work done on behalf of the official opposition of which Edward Byrne's behalf. There was a signature "Charlie White" on the receipt. A recap dated June 4, 2001, shows that Edward Byrne was paid $9,000 for this claim.

39. On September 22, 2000, a Travel and Constituency Allowance Claim in the amount of $10,000 was submitted by Edward J. Byrne. Attached to this claim was a generic receipt dated September 20, 2000, for a payment of $10,000 to John Joy for research conducted on behalf of the Official Opposition. There was a signature "John Joy" on this generic receipt. A recap generated on September 22, 2000, showed a payment of $10,000 to Edward Byrne for this claim.

40. Charles White is a senior partner in the law firm of White, Ottenheimer and Baker. John Joy is now a Provincial Court Judge in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but in 2000 was also a lawyer in the firm.

41. On August 7, 2007, one of the investigators spoke with His Honour Judge John Joy by telephone. Judge Joy advised that when he was a lawyer in the law firm of White, Ottenheimer and Baker he had done some work for the PC Party in relation to a constitutional issue regarding the food fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. Judge Joy said he couldn't recall signing any receipt. The investigator e-mailed Judge Joy a copy of the generic receipt. Judge Joy responded that he had never seen the generic receipt before and that it definitely wasn't his signature on the document. Judge Joy stated that he personally did not receive $10,000.

42. On August 15, 2007, the investigators interviewed Charles White. Charles White confirmed that the law firm did some work for the PC Party in 2000 and that John Joy was the lawyer who did the work. He said they were engaged to do the study by Edward Byrne but the PC Party was their client. Edward Byrne maintains that this work was done for the Official Opposition. Charles White stated that they billed the PC Party $10,000 and they received two payments in the form of personal cheques from Edward Byrne. One payment was for $4,000 and one payment of $5,000 and they wrote off the remaining $1,000. Charles White stated that this was the only work their law firm did on Edward Byrne's behalf.

43. Charles White was shown copies of the two personal cheques from Edward Byrne made payable to White, Ottenheimer and Baker. Charles White confirmed that these were copies of the cheques they had received. Charles White was also shown the generic receipt for $9,000 which was purportedly signed “Charlie White”. Charles White stated that he had never seen that document before and that it wasn't his signature on the document. Charles White was then shown the generic receipt pertaining to the $10,000 amount that John Joy was supposed to have received. Charles White stated that he knew John Joy's signature and the signature “John Joy” on the receipt was definitely not his signature.

44. Edward Byrne received $10,000 as a result of submitting the receipt purporting to bear the signature of John Joy. Although the receipt bearing the signature of Charles White is also apparently false, Charles White acknowledges that there was work done by their firm, and there was a payment of $9,000 as stated in the receipt.

14 comments:

Bennie said...

Please clarify reference to Richard Squires (fact, not myth, thankyou).

Edward G. Hollett said...

Thank heavens I didn't use an obscure reference.

I was shooting for an historical reference to the use of public money for partisan political purposes. in the body of the post I made another reference to what is, as I understand it, an old practice in politics common to Squires, Smallwood and others to muddle up accounts.

You can find a version of the scandal that led to the collapse of Squires' first administration in, among other places, Sid Noel's Politics in Newfoundland.

On p.169, for instance there is a reference to a finding by the Hollis Walker inquiry that a minister had not only paid his own expenses for cabs out of government funds for pit props but had also bribed the auditor sent to audit the department's books.

Bennie said...

I thought the Grand Jury found no evidence.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Historically, Bennie, political corruption has seldom been punished in Newfoundland.

There is a thread of public opinion that accepts such things as normal. Where else might one dismiss accusations of corruption on the grounds that even if proven true, we are a lot less corrupt than that crowd in Nova Scotia?

Case in point: before Ed Bynre, name the last Newfoundland politician jailed for corruption?

Lots of accusations and plenty of smoke and in some cases fire, but very few prosecutions, let alone successful ones.

Bennie said...

Politicians don't tend to get jailed for corruption. I suppose my point is that we have been trained to view the Squires administration as corrupt, with inuendo serving in place of facts and the "history" as presented, false and contradictory. We do not delve very deeply into what was going on, why his government was overthrown on two occasions, in what, in other places, would be called coups, the second resulting in the elimination of democracy. The coup leaders were well rewarded. Newfoundland was eliminated from the international stage. Our wilfull blindness of our own history means we do not question any of it. Squires was corrupt! The Unemployed (who were given the day off work(???!) marched on the Colonial Building in a spontaneous (announced the day before) display of anger and were led, not be working class leaders but by the Anglophile business elite. With a mob ransacking the parliament building, assaulting police and attempting to murder the Prime Minister, you might have thought there would have been an arrest or two. The April riot was the second attempt that year to overthrow Squires. A similar attack happened in February and Squires was badly beaten. No arrests then either. But there were mass arrests in July in a peaceful protest against the coup organizers who had come to power.

Edward G. Hollett said...

So you'd reject the results of a public inquiry in favour of the sort of political conspiracy theories Squires and his supporters used in 1923/24?

Interesting.

Bennie said...

"Political conspiracy theories" ?? That's a bit trite, particularly as the Byrne affair(about which you were blogging) must have been a conspiracy in order to function. What did I write that wasn't true, that was some kind of wild inuendo?
Are you saying that February and April 1932 really were spontaneous marches of the unemployed?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Your suggestion that the whole mess exposed by the Hollis Walker inquiry (1923-24) was part of a plot seems more than a bit contrived.

Bennie said...

That was not my suggestion. Please answer the question.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Your earlier post included this line: " We do not delve very deeply into what was going on, why his government was overthrown on two occasions, in what, in other places, would be called coups, the second resulting in the elimination of democracy.".

So are you suggesting that Hollis Walker was in on some sort of coup?

Bennie said...

Squires was already out of office when Walker was called in. Please answer the question about 1932. For the third time, was it a spontaneous march of the unemployed or not?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Long before we get around to the 1932 riot, we need to sort out your view of Squires in the 1920s because you linked the two together.

Is it your contention that Squires wasn't guilty of corruption, the charges against him were false and the evidence compiled by Hollis Walker was trumped up?

I'd like you to explain a bit better how you see the events in the early 20s as a coup or why you regard what has been generally accepted for 80-odd years to be "innuendo".

Perhaps you'd like to stop evading that matter before we get to a whole discussion of what happened in the second Squires administration.

Bennie said...

"we need to sort out your view of Squires"
Do "We" indeed? Is this the Royal We or the Schizophrenic We?
You seem preoccupied with
"that sorry red herring of 1924".
Why is this the "Sir Robert Bond Papers" when it probably should be the "Sir Frederick Alderdice Papers"

Edward G. Hollett said...

Frankly, Bennie, with the benefit of some bennies, I doubt very much I could see whatever point it is you are trying to make.