Friday, September 2, 2011

Riot report ghost writer reluctant to talk about BC Rail briber

I got a call from Stewart Muir on Friday afternoon. Turns out he was the ghost writer for the report on the 2011 Stanley Cup riot that bears the names of John Furlong and Doug Keefe. Furlong, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics boss, hired him, he said.

The former Vancouver Sun deputy managing editor didn't seem very enthusiastic when I asked him about whether his wife, Athana Mentzelopoulos, influenced or was informed about the content of the report. His denial was emphatic, yet defensive.

It's not an unreasonable question. Muir is a veteran journalist who obviously knows our job is to watch those in power and keep an eye on those close to them. He has a family connection in the Office of the Premier. Mentzelopoulos was hired in August as Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister of corporate priorities. Mentzelopoulos was a deputy minister under ex-Premier Gordon Campbell and even served as a bridesmaid at Clark's wedding. Clark is a big Canucks' fan and enjoys the support of donors like Canucks and Rogers Arena owner Francesco Aquilini.

You can read my story on Muir here.

Before I finished the interview, I took the opportunity to ask about records mentioning Muir and Mentzelopoulos that are displayed on this blog entry by Alex Tsakumis.

Tsakumis managed to obtain expense reports filed by OmniTrax lobbyist Erik Bornmann that were collected by the RCMP in their investigation on the corrupt 2003 sale of BC Rail to CN Rail.

Bornmann was an admitted briber of public employees while he worked as a lobbyist for the BC Rail bidder. He was never charged in the BC Rail affair, but he agreed to become the star witness against ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk. Those two men accepted cash and gifts from Bornmann in exchange for information about the BC Rail sale.

Basi and Virk mysteriously copped a plea bargain in October 2010 just when the trial was about to get interesting. The B.C. Liberal government, under then-Premier Campbell, agreed to pay their $6 million legal bills, despite the fact they were guilty. Auditor General John Doyle is examining the highly unusual transaction.

Bornmann was admitted into the Law Society of Upper Canada, meaning he can practice law in Ontario, after this 2-1 decision. Read BC Railscam ace chronicler Bill Tieleman's blog here.

Bornmann's records on the Tsakumis blog show that Muir met with Bornmann on three occasions for what appear to be expensive meals, in the months before the BC Rail privatization was announced and the infamous raid on the B.C. Legislature happened:

July 8, 2003: "Entertainment Stewart Muir/Athana" $366.44
July 15, 2003: "Entertainment Stewart Muir and guests" $319.21
Oct. 7, 2003: "Entertainment - Business Editor - Vancouver Sun" $774.18

I sought Muir's comments on his infamous host and whether it was simply a traditional "reporter-source" relationship. (I was hoping he might have some insight about the scandal that dominated headlines in British Columbia for more than seven years.)

"I haven't seen the material," Muir said.

I offered to email him a link, but I told him I didn't have his email address. Could I have his email address? He didn't seem interested.

"You can Google it," he said.

I have no proof whatsoever of any wrongdoing by Muir or Mentzelopoulos. Just because they met with Bornmann does not mean you or I should think less of them.

I remain interested in what Muir might have to say about those meetings with someone who eventually became known as a central player in the BC Rail scandal.

If he wants to comment, he does not have to Google my contact information.

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