Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Erin Selby ignores ethics complaints, filed against her Jets ticket hookup: Red River College

Over the past two weeks Winnipeg has watched Selinger's NDP contort themselves into a rare full-barrel damage control position, one they don't often find themselves in. Jets tickets were a super hot commodity this past season. Really hot. It's almost impossible to get in...unless you know someone who has tickets.

For Selinger's cabinet, that's easy. Maybe it's who you know. Or maybe it's who’s worked on your campaign or made a political donation. Or maybe, it’s someone you've done political favours for.

Let me address why "ticket-gate" is not worthy of dismissal, as many seem to be doing, at least by my observations.

The tickets are worth far, far more than face value. Market value for the tickets, as everyone knows about were thousands of dollars on Kijiji, before True North clamped down on it. Jets tickets were nearly impossible to get at the beginning of the season. Everybody wanted to go. Getting into the MTS Centre for the first few games was like someone trying to get into the Birds Nest for the 2008 Beijing Olympics 110m men's hurdles. The entire country of China wanted in.

To give precious few seats to the politicians connected with other government organizations, is a scandal. If that doesn't sell you, then perhaps the Criminal Code of Canada will.

It seems the wise ones that put together our Criminal Code foresaw this sort of corruption and possibility of it being used for political favours, and not only put that in the book, but also anything that might be perceived as a conflict. Under Corruption and Disobedience, Sections 119 and 121 of the Criminal Code can be viewed here.

With such value to these tickets, you don't just give them to your friends. Well, you and I do. But 13 cabinet ministers (in a cabinet of 19) do not receive tickets from Crown Corps because they're friends. In theory political gifts and freebies are prohibited under the Criminal Code because they can be seen as either a bribe (for a Minister not to do something) or a reward (for not having taken action). If we didn't have this sort of thing, our Parliament/Legislatures/government might descend into something resembling the US Congress.

But in Manitoba, this may not be only a theoretical problem.

What started as a simple question by MLA Ron Schuler has steamrolled a gaffe-ridden bad hair day for the NDP that has spanned weeks now. In what was probably the best use of an FOI this year, Colin Craig, rather spectacularly caught Jim Rondeau lying. Unbeknownst to Rondeau, Craig had in his hands the information Rondeau claimed not to be able to obtain for awhile.

And so by weeks end, the truth came out that a whopping 13 out of 19 cabinet ministers have enjoyed the “perks” of government-funded season tickets.

Allow me to focus on just one cabinet minister.

Erin Selby, alumni of Red River College, and Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy. Who received at least one Jets ticket from a certain Stephanie Forsyth, President of Red River College.

The question that is hopefully on more members of the media's minds than just mine, is why these particular Ministers got tickets. Who is giving them to whom, and why? Are they just buddies, or is there political leverage going on?

Erin Selby is one who's relationship with her ticket-giver some light can be shed on.

In November 2010 The Great Canadian Talk Show on CKIC, was cancelled, after over four years of broadcasting with zero complaints registered with CreComm Inc and zero CRTC violations. This is probably a familiar story to many of my readers, and I make no reservations to disclose that in 2010 and especially towards the end of the show, I had become a regular contributor and volunteer. It is with that, and the events that followed, that I can shed light.

In May 2011, complaints were lodged with Stephanie Forsyth.

One from “Spirited Kenny,” an RRC alumni and longtime sidekick on the radio program as well as the host of his own show. The other was from a regular listener, Mike Jandavs. Both were alerting Forsyth to the conflicts of interest between college officials; their involvement with the radio station, as well as their deliberate attempts to mislead and provide false information. In effect, alerting the College President to ethical violations.

After getting a non-response, Kenny escalated his complaint and sent it instead to Erin Selby, the Minister of Advanced Education (ie institutions such as RRC) repeating his unanswered concerns, and requesting she conduct an investigation into the misconduct of Red River College officials with regards to TGCTS and conflicts of interests with the governance of CreComm Inc (the radio station). Mike Jandavs did the same.

In July of 2011, another listener named Michael King submitted an elaborately detailed complaint to many people, copying both Stephanie Forsyth and Erin Selby on the complaint. The reason (it must be noted), he copied to so many people, is that he was trying to send his complaint to the RRC Board of Governors, and was unsure of who exactly that was. His complaint was again about Dean of Business Graham Thomson's misconduct. Furthermore he alerted Selby about the College's lawyer, who also gave legal counsel to CreComm Inc, effectively playing both sides although being paid by the one side, the College.

On July 20, 2011, Erin Selby responded to Kenny. She wrote about his complaints and request for an investigation:

“These matters are serious, and are best addressed by the College directly. I recommend you raise your concerns with the Board of Governors, so that they can investigate in accordance with their processes.” Selby, by now had received two complaints directly, and was alerted to someone who already attempted to contact the Board of Governors, to no avail.

With the detailed complaints Selby received, the important need for a non-College investigation would be lost on nobody, as the multiple conflicts of interest and misconduct of College officials were astounding. To let them investigate themselves would be akin to a Star Chamber.

Erin Selby's next response would be to King, essentially the same letter she sent to Kenny, word for word. She wrote about King's complaints and request for an investigation on 4 August 2011:

“These matters are serious, and are best addressed by the College directly. I recommend you raise your concerns with the Board of Governors, so that they can investigate in accordance with their processes.”

With Selby's journalism background from the CreComm program, she has a clearly demonstrated ability to work in copy-and-paste newsrooms. Delivering the same response to two separate complainants sent the clear message that she would not be looking into these accusations, or their evidence, regardless of her responsibility as Minister to the state of post-secondary education institutions.

What makes Michael King's response from Selby peculiar is that he had already tried to bring his concerns to the Board of Governors for investigation, with no response. Selby told him to go back to that Board, that they will investigate "in accordance with their own processes." Their process apparently was to ignore complaints about corruption. Selby's process is apparently to have corrupt people investigate their own corruption.

Always a winning situation.

Michael King again wrote the Board of Governors telling them of Selby's direction last August 28th, and again never was contacted. Quelle surprise.

The College President had also ignored these three complainaints. That is, after all, why they went to Selby. All three of these people went up the ladder, one by one, trying to resolve and sort things out along the way. Only to be ignored and told that no investigation would happen because there was nothing wrong with lying to the public, to radio station volunteers, or to elected officials such as Sam Katz, who made inquiries about the cancelation of TGCTS.

A little over a year later RRC President Stephanie Forsyth is giving Erin Selby a Jets ticket. Only one that we are being told of anyway, and going with her to a Jets game. The 4th home game of the Jets v2.0, to be exact. So soon into the season that it was considered privaleged to be able to attend. A prett-y hot item.

What is the message to students of the College? We own you. Step out of line, your concerns and complaints will be ignored, squashed, then dusted under the rug. And when you graduate and grow up and become a young professional, or even a Cabinet Minister, do your fellow graduates proud by being dishonest and helping stamp out criticism of your colleagues, even if it is unethical. Or illegal.

There's gold in them'thar Jets tickets. What is the message to the public?

Hi, I'm Erin Selby. This scandal is overblown and not a scandal at all. I’m just trying to fit my Andrew Ladd sweater over my head and get to the game with the people I'm unwilling to investigate for ethics and corruption. Totally nothing wrong with that.

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