Fines levied against another former Callaway UCP leadership campaign staffer

A 2017 file photo of Jeff Callaway. Global News

Alberta’s election commissioner has levied more fines tied to their investigation into Jeff Callaway‘s United Conservative Party leadership campaign, which has been referred to as a so-called kamikaze campaign.

Callaway’s former executive assistant, Jeff Park, has been fined a total of $10,500 for donating money to the campaign “with funds given or furnished by another person.” The fine also covers a donation made by Park’s wife, Michelle, which is also believed to have been “given or furnished by another person.”

Park is the fifth person to be fined in relation to the Callaway campaign, and is maintaining his innocence.

Fines in relation to the investigation now total $31,000.

READ MORE: What we know so far about election commissioner’s investigation into Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership bid

A letter from Alberta election commissioner Lorne Gibson obtained by Global News, dated March 14, 2019, addressed 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 Davies on Sept. 11, 2017.

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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).”

It’s alleged the money was distributed to a number of individuals connected to the campaign with the intention they would make legitimate-looking donations.

In February, Cameron Davies, formerly Callaway’s campaign manager, was issued $15,000 in fines for “obstructing an investigation.”

The $10,000 payment

Park told Global News he believed he’d been hired by Energize Alberta to work on the 2017 UCP leadership campaign and that he negotiated an agreement for payment for his services with the political action committee.

Lenore Eaton was CFO of Energize Alberta Corporation while also working as the 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.

Park said he submitted an invoice of $10,000 to Energize Alberta, of which the majority was a signing bonus and the rest covered wages for the first two weeks of the campaign.

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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.

“In my experience in politics, it was not outrageous,” Park said in an interview Thursday. “It was not unusual for some other member of the team that I might technically be included under in the [organizational] chart to be the source of my payment. It’s happened before and it’s happened since.”

According to Park, he was paid within days of the first deadline for the leadership campaign to secure enough money to stay in the race — $57,000.

“I knew if the campaign were to continue, and I was going to receive more payment from the campaign, that we had to meet the [$57,000] that we needed to have by the deadline,” 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.

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“I didn’t think anything of the connection between those two things except that without money, I can’t donate money,” Park said.

In a letter dated April 24, 2019, the election commissioner is denying Park’s claims. The election commissioner said neither Park nor Energize Alberta could provide any documents to prove a contract negotiated for $10,000. The letter also stated that Eaton did not support Park’s claims when she was interviewed by the election commissioner.

“It is highly contradictory to expect that you would insist on a $10,000 up-front payment to work exclusively for the Callaway campaign… then surrender $7,000 of that money mid-way through your employment in the form of a political contribution,” the election commissioner’s letter reads.

Park intending to appeal

Park is maintaining his innocence and told Global News he’s exploring his legal options for an appeal.

“I don’t believe that a true finding of fact has taken place here, so I would like to have my case truly heard before a fair tribunal,” Park said.

Global News reached out to Callaway’s lawyer Ivan Bernardo for a statement but did not receive a response.

READ MORE: Jeff Callaway files new court challenge against Alberta’s election commissioner

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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.

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 irregular campaign donations made to the Callaway campaign but Park said he hasn’t been approached for an interview.

Throughout the 2019 Alberta general election campaign, Kenney has denied his involvement in the scheme.

“We are not provided any information by the elections commissioner about these rulings beyond what is publicly available on the commissioner’s website,” UCP executive director Janice Harrington said in a statement to Global News.

“The party plays no role in the collection or disclosure of donations to leadership contestants. This has absolutely nothing to do with the premier-designate or his former leadership campaign.”

The Alberta NDP, which was relegated to opposition status following the spring election, is asking for answers in relation to the leadership race.

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“Jason Kenney has avoided answering questions about his leadership campaign scandals and the associated RCMP investigations at every turn. He must set the record straight before being sworn in as premier next week,” the party said in a release Thursday.

— With files from Global News’ Julia Wong and Phil Heidenreich, The Canadian Press

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