Remember T Richard Turner? T Richard Turner of “called the minister to make sure my roof went through” fame? T Richard Turner of “sure I was the Chairman of the BC Lottery Corporation while a partner in a Casino company but no conflict there” notoriety. T Richard Turner of “the rfp bears no relationship to the $50,000 donation” reasoning?
Seems phone calls to ministers of the Crown weren’t the only way Mr. Turner threw his weight around the BC Liberal government as he lobbied for his company’s Casino project.
Turner also wrote emails, lots and lots of emails to Vic Poleschuk, the Chief Executive Officer of the BC Lottery Corporation. And now Tuner is fighting tooth and nail to keep you from seeing them.
Just over a year ago, journalist Sean Holman filed an FOI request for correspondence between BCLC and T. Richard Turner, a director of Paragon Gaming. BCLC identified forty-seven pages of emails between Turner and the Lottery Corp’s CEO Vic Poleschuk.
The emails were written between 2005 and 2007. Turner resigned from the Board of BCLC in December 2005 and shortly after acquired an interest in Paragon’s BC operation. Poleschuk was fired in June 2007. Sometime after 2007 Paragon began planning the relocation of the Edgewater Casino to BC Place and BCLC was required to approve such a move.
According to the Office of the Information Commissioner the emails “are communications to and from its CEO, under his corporate signature block on the BCLC email system, and [concern] subjects relating to gaming in general, the operations of BCLC and his role in BCLC.”
Releasing the email chain was controversial from the start. BCLC initially denied access to all but one page of the emails, but reconsidered in the middle of an inquiry by Jay Fedorak of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Following BCLC’s agreement to release most of the emails, Turner requested a review arguing economic harm and privacy rights.
According to the Adjudicator Turner claimed “disclosure would expose him to harm… including serious mental distress, anguish and harassment.” As evidence Turner cited “the recent high sensitivity given to issues of conflict of interest and this could lead him to experience ‘unfair harassment from politicians and the media.’ He says it is likely that his actions would be characterized unfairly.”
Translation: There’s a lot of stuff in these emails that would make me look bad.
The Adjudicator didn’t buy the argument, noting “There is always the risk that disclosure of any information under FIPPA would be open to misinterpretation, but this, in itself, is not a justification under FIPPA for withholding the information.”
Fedorak ordered BCLC to release most of the material, excluding some personal information, citing the importance of accountability and transparence in this case: “”the communications involve a former official of a regulatory body who subsequently joined a private sector company that is subject to oversight by that regulatory body. I think that these facts argue in favour of disclosure…”
That should have been the end of it. Instead Turner appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to stop release.
He really doesn’t want you to see these records. Which raises a lot of questions – maybe more than the releasing the records would:
- Was Turner paving the way for the BC Place move? Discussions with the city started very soon after these emails end. And those discussions led the Sullivan administration to rezone the BC place lands for a “major casino.”
- Was he talking general business about his Casino interests, getting the kind of inside information others have no access to?
- Shouldn’t he have been registered with the Lobbyist Registry?
- Should the Chair of ICBC be getting business advice from the CEO of BCLC?
Turner called up the Minister responsible for Pavco to chat up his company’s interests. He arranged meetings with Pavco to assist negotiations. And now we find out he spent two years chatting up the CEO of the Lottery Corporation, which oversaw Paragon’s actions in BC.
All under the table, without registering as a lobbyist while the Provincial Government came up with the plan to relocate his casino, doubled in size, on the BC Place lands.
A version of this story appears on the Vancouver Observer