The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Single sentence from auditor explains NDP and Elections Manitoba fear of public inquiry

One sentence.

33 words.

That's all you need to read to understand why a public inquiry is needed into the NDP election rebate scandal.

For the past three weeks the Premier Gary Doer has defended his party by arguing that Elections Manitoba has already answered all the questions about the NDP's organized scheme to falsify 1999 election finances in order to trigger $76,000 in unwarranted rebates.

He goes on to add that every political party has in the past refiled their election returns and repaid money. And the kicker---the NDP cooperated with Elections Manitoba and abided by their ruling without kicking up a fuss.

Here's a sample of what Doer told the Legislature May 28, 2009:

"Obviously, Elections Manitoba had their legal advice. Our party had our legal advice. We-the instructions I gave to the party was to co-operate with Elections Manitoba. That's what they did. They co-operated fully through the matter. We could have disagreed with them and gone potentially to court or maybe not gone to court, but we decided to co-operate with Elections Manitoba. That's what we did."

Now read what David Asselstine, the forensic auditor who uncovered the NDP rebate scheme, wrote to Elections Manitoba lawyer A. Blair Graham in June, 2003. He refers to Graham and Chief Electoral Officer Richard Balasko when he says:

"I further understand that you both concur that the complaint filed against my conduct in the Hindle interview was contrived and was part of an attempt to disrupt, if not obstruct, the investigation."

One sentence. 33 words.

Hindle was the NDP's comptroller, the fancy name for chief accountant who maintains and audits the finances. After Asselstine interviewed her in 2001, the NDP's party secretary Tom Milne phoned Scott Gordon, the Manager of Elections Finances, to issue a not-so-veiled threat against Elections Manitoba's forensic auditor.

A memo Gordon wrote the same day documenting the call states:

"Milne said something to the effect that if he found out that Asselstine knew of the details of Hindle's family crisis at the time of asking her this question in the interview that he (maybe he said "we") would take every step possible to ensure that Asselstine would never get another cent of the government's money for work."

Now re-read what Asselstine wrote to Elections Manitoba.

Note particularly where he says "you both concur that the complaint....was contrived". We went to the dictionary to be double-sure of what we read.

Contrive, v.t., to devise; plan; to invent, design; to bring about, as a scheme. (Webster's New World Dictionary)

Concur, v.i., to agree; be in accord; have the same opinion.

So the head of the allegedly non-partisan, independent Elections Manitoba and his official lawyer agreed that the party secretary of the NDP was trying to disrupt, if not obstruct, the investigation into NDP election finances by making a phony complaint. What did they do about it?

Did they order an immediate investigation? They had to, didn't they? Read the laws of Manitoba on this point....

Types of Offences
Sections 178 to 184 of The Elections Act and sections 78 to 88 of The Elections Finances Act describe the specific offences under Manitoba's election laws.

Additionally, both Acts provide that it is an offence to contravene or fail to comply with any provision of the Acts or

Regulations not specifically listed as an offence.

Specific offences under the EA are organized into five categories:
bribery and intimidation offences
voting offences
offences relating to candidates
offences relating to election officials and others
miscellaneous offences such as those relating to false or misleading information or misuse of the voters list
Specific offences under the EFA include:
obstruction of an audit, inquiry, investigation or examination
force and intimidation relating to contributions
false contribution receipts
false registration numbers
false statement in any application, statement, return or other document
false information respecting contributions
failure to file adequate documents
failure to comply with contribution rules
party/candidate exceeding expense limit
officers responsible for overspending
misuse of information filed under the EFA
failure to provide records

What did Balasko and Graham do about the attempt to obstruct the investigation? We don't know because, says Balasko, they can't discuss an investigation. Classified. Don't ask.

We do, however, know what happened to Asselstine.

He was gone by the time the NDP concluded its "negotiations" with Balasko to pay back the $76,000 and close the file.

What prompted Asselstine's split with Elections Manitoba? They were financially starving him---refusing to pay his fees and expenses.

But there's the next sentence in Asselstine's letter.

"I believe it is clear that Ms. Hindle was not being truthful when she claimed no knowledge of the arranged transactions designed to obtain the public funds in question."

Asselstine was telling the lawyer for Elections Manitoba that he was certain the NDP's comptroller had lied to him.

Was that investigated as a breach of the election financing laws?

Is the Chartered Accountants Association of Manitoba not concerned about this allegation which points to a breach of their own code of ethics? There's nothing preventing them from investigating such a serious charge. Here, for the record, is the relevant section of their own bylaws...

Members shall not be associated with any information which the member knows, or ought to know, to be false or misleading, whether by statement or omission.

R401 Communication Issued in Connection with Financial Information A member shall not issue a communication on any financial information, whether for publication or not, when the information is prepared in a manner which might tend to be misleading.

R402 Association with Financial Information

A member shall not be associated with any letter, report, statement, representation, financial statement, or tax filing, whether written or oral, which the member knows, or should know, is false or misleading, regardless of any disclaimer of responsibility.

R402.1 Employer/Employee Conflicts It is recognized that under exceptional circumstances, compliance with Rule R402 may place a member in a difficult position vis-à-vis the member’s employer. Nevertheless, professional duty is failed if the member fails to comply with Rule R402.

R403 Known Omission

A member shall disclose any fact or information known to the member which is not disclosed in the financial information, the omission of which would make that information misleading.

R404 Material Discrepancy

A member shall immediately disclose any material discrepancy that becomes known to the member concerning financial information on which the member has issued a communication, or with which the member is associated.

But Elections Manitoba was seemingly unconcerned with what Asselstine told them.

Did they question Ms. Hindle about the charge against her? Did they ask whether she was acting on the orders of someone higher up in the party?

Reread what Party leader Gary Doer told the legislature above.

"We-the instructions I gave to the party was to co-operate with Elections Manitoba."

"The instructions I gave." To cooperate? We see that once again, the NDP has redefined a word. In their world, cooperation meant:

* Almost a year and a half after filing their 1999 election returns, the NDP was fighting the forensic auditor's investigation tooth and nail

* the party secretary was threatening him by falsely attacking his integrity

* the party's chief accountant may have lied to the forensic auditor about her knowledge of how deep and how long the rebate kickback scheme had been going on

* It took 3 1/2 years before the NDP refiled its election expenses and repaid the money it tried to scam from the public purse.

And how did Elections Manitoba respond? By investigating the obstruction? No, by ensuring the forensic auditor was forced out, then negotiating a way for the NDP to pay back the money with as little publicity as possible.

The only way we can ever get to the truth of Elections Manitoba's collusion with the NDP in burying the election finances rebate scandal is by a public inquiry.

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