What we know so far about election commissioner’s investigation into Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership bid
Several people linked to Jeff Callaway’s 2017 United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership campaign could face jail time or hefty fines as Alberta’s election commissioner’s investigation into the contest deepens.
Letters written by election commissioner Lorne Gibson, which were submitted to court in response to an application for an injunction to have the investigation suspended, provide an inside glimpse into the work done by the election commissioner’s office over the last few months. On Wednesday, a Calgary judge denied the injunction.
Watch below: (From April 3, 2019) Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker ruled Wednesday afternoon that the Alberta election commissioner’s probe into Jeff Callaway’s 2017 UCP leadership bid can continue.
The election commissioner’s investigation began after allegations surfaced of what’s been dubbed a kamikaze campaign that saw Callaway run in the UCP leadership race to target Brian Jean, Jason Kenney’s main opponent, and then drop out of the race to throw his support behind Kenney.
One letter from Gibson — dated March 14, 2019 — to Calgary businessman Robyn Lore confirms the election commissioner is looking into an alleged $60,000 transfer from a Calgary-based business called Agropyron into the personal account of Cameron Davies, Callaway’s co-campaign manager. The allegation was first reported by Maclean’s. Davies has since been fined $15,000 by the election commissioner for obstruction of an investigation.
Gibson said his office believes Davies’ bank account was credited the $60,000 on Sept. 11, 2017, from Agropyron. A corporate search lists Lore as a director of the company.
Gibson writes his office believes, that on Sept. 11, 2017, “all or significant portions of that $60,000 was directed to the Jeff Callaway campaign in a manner that has been determined to be in contravention of the EFCDA (Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act).”
Lore was ordered to undergo an interview with the OEC (Office of the Election Commissioner) on April 2. He was asked to bring monthly bank statements, documents for accounts that were allegedly used to transfer the funds to Davies and written statements outlining the source of the funds, benefits given to him or Agropyron and how the transfer of funds was made.
It is unclear if Lore attended the interview. The OEC said it does not comment on investigations that it may or may not be conducting. A lawyer representing Lore did not respond to requests for comment from Global News on Friday or Saturday.
Lore could face a fine or jail time if he does not comply with the OEC.
“Not what I signed up for”
Jeff Park worked as Callaway’s executive assistant during the leadership campaign. He said his main responsibilities were travelling with Callaway, keeping him on talking points and taking photos for social media.
Park told Global News he did not know about the kamikaze plan; he said, while it was always a possibility that Callaway would drop out, he was not aware of when Callaway would pull out of the race.
He asked for a signing bonus to ensure he would have income if the campaign folded. Park said he submitted an invoice of $10,000, of which the majority was a signing bonus and the rest covered wages for the first two weeks of the campaign.
Bank statements reviewed by Global News show Park received a $10,000 wire transfer from Davies on Sept. 11, 2017 — the same day the election commissioner believes $60,000 was dispersed to the Callaway campaign.
“I didn’t consider that particularly unusual at the time,” Park said about the wire transfer. “There have been other campaigns where fellow staffers on the campaign have actually been [paid]… the way I got paid.”
Global News also reviewed two cheques Park received from Energize Alberta. A letter from the election commissioner indicates Park believed he was being paid by a political action committee.
“I didn’t know the source of the money. I didn’t know there was a corporation that was kind of more directly paying me in this case,” he said.
Park said he was asked by the Callaway campaign to donate $4,000 and for his wife to make a similar contribution. Records from Elections Alberta show Park and his wife ultimately donated $3,500 each.
He said he is co-operating with the election commissioner’s investigation.
“I can’t talk about any particular questions, but they’re almost exclusively concerned with the source of the funds and whether money that was not my own was donated to a political candidate,” Park said.
After Callaway dropped out of the leadership race, Park volunteered with the Kenney campaign.
Park said the investigation has taken a toll.
“We’re being thrust into a situation where it’s turned our life upside down, forced us to retain a lawyer we can’t really afford and put me in a situation where my own reputation and that of my wife is in serious doubt over what we thought was good faith — legitimate, supporting someone we believed in,” he said.
“For it to turn into a situation where my friends and neighbours could be harmed from some of the outcomes of this, this is not what I signed up for.”
Letters from Gibson also reveal at least three people may have been intimidated from co-operating with the OEC.
“It has come to the attention of my office that an individual has been contacting, or attempting to contact, one or more persons who are subjects in this investigation, in order to dissuade co-operation with investigators and hinder the proper disposition of matters in order to avoid these proceedings,” Gibson wrote to Darren Thompson, Jennifer Thompson and Jeff Callaway’s wife, Nicole Callaway.
Darren and Jennifer Thompson, Jeff and Nicole Callaway along with Lore, were parties to the injunction application asking for a pause in the election commissioner’s investigation, at least until after the provincial election on April 16.
Gibson tells Darren Thompson, Jennifer Thompson and Nicole Callaway that his office is investigating irregular financial contributions made to the Callaway campaign and that the Elections Act may have been broken.
The trio are asked for bank records and written statements about who approached them about the contribution, when they were approached, how the contribution was made and where the funds came from.
All three were asked to provide information or show up for an interview with the OEC. Failure to comply could result in a maximum fine of $10,000 for each, the letters state.
A lawyer representing Darren and Jennifer Thompson as well as Jeff and Nicole Callaway did not respond to requests for comment on Friday or Saturday.
Callaway CFO could face jail time, fines
The chief financial officer (CFO) for Callaway’s leadership bid is also facing possible jail time or major fines. The OEC believes Lenore Eaton broke election rules surrounding financial payments to two people who worked on the campaign, including Jeff Park.
Eaton was CFO of Energize Alberta Corporation during her time as CFO of the Callaway campaign. Prohibited entities, which Energize Alberta Corporation would be in this case, are not allowed to make contributions to a leadership contestant or campaign.
Findings by the OEC reveal Eaton signed cheques from Energize Alberta Corporation for the two workers.
“As CFO for the Jeff Callaway campaign, and acting on behalf of Jeff Callaway, you accepted a contribution in kind from Energize Alberta Corporation for the services performed” by the two employees, the court document states.
Eaton also did not disclose the contributions to the Callaway campaign to the OEC, according to a letter from Gibson.
“Ms. Eaton has unfortunately been included in an investigation in which she was unaware of any wrongdoing,” reads a statement sent to Global News on Friday night by Cory Wilson, Eaton’s lawyer.
“She has been co-operative throughout the investigation and continues to comply with her obligations under the legislation. Despite the initial findings of the commissioner, which were recently made public, I am confident that Ms. Eaton will be completely exonerated once the investigation is complete.”
Throughout the campaign, Kenney has denied his involvement in the so-called kamikaze campaign.
But emails released to local media, including Global News, show ongoing contact during the 2017 leadership race between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns — including Kenney staffers –providing strategic direction, attack ads, speaking notes, speeches and media support to the Callaway campaign.
The RCMP have confirmed they are looking into allegations of possible wrongdoing in connection with the Callaway campaign. In late March, Kenney said a UCP lawyer had reached out to the RCMP.
The commissioner has already issued some fines for illegal donations to Callaway’s campaign.
-With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich and The Canadian Press
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