‘Findings of the investigation are unreasonable’: Jeff Park’s lawyer responds to Alberta’s election commissioner
The lawyer representing Jeff Park, formerly an executive assistant to Jeff Callaway during his UCP leadership campaign, is refuting all findings against his client by Alberta’s election commissioner.
On Thursday, $10,500 in fines were levied against Park for making donations to the Callaway 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.”
In a letter sent to the election commissioner dated April 18, obtained by Global News, Park’s lawyer denied the donations were with money given to Park by somebody else.
“Your finding to the contrary is without merit, unreasonable and ought to be reversed,” the letter reads.
Park is the fifth person to be fined in relation to the Callaway campaign.
According to the letter, Park was hired by the Callaway campaign in August 2017, and Park negotiated a salary of $1,500 per week in addition to a signing bonus.
Park’s lawyer said his client was asked to submit an invoice to Energize Alberta on Sept. 1, the invoice was for $10,000 — $3,000 for two weeks salary plus a $7,000 signing bonus.
Park told Global News he no longer has a record of that invoice.
Bank statements reviewed by Global News show Park received a $10,000 wire transfer from Callaway’s co-campaign manager Cameron Davies on Sept. 11, 2017.
According to the letter, Davies asked Park and his wife to each donate $4,000 to the Callaway campaign on Sept. 8.
“Mr. Park was hesitant, but Mr. Davies told Mr. Park that the Callaway campaign was in need of $57,000 worth of donations to pay a UCP leadership contestant fee by Sept. 14,” the letter reads. “If the Callaway campaign did not, it would discontinue.”
Park agreed he and his wife would each donate $3,500 once he was paid the $10,000 that he had invoiced, Park’s lawyer wrote in the letter.
The $3,500 donations were given to the campaign on the evening of Sept. 11, the same day Park received the wire transfer from Davies.
In a letter dated April 24, 2019, the election commissioner denied 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.
According to the letter from Park’s lawyer, Park was motivated by multiple factors to contribute to the campaign financially whether Callaway was successful or not.
“The $10,000 was payment for services rendered to the Callaway campaign by Mr. Park and Mr. Park considered the funds to be rightfully his own earned income,” the letter reads. “If Mr. Davies supplied the funds to Mr. Park for the purposes of contributing the funds to the Callaway campaign, Mr. Park was unaware of it.”
Election commissioner investigation
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.
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, Davies was issued $15,000 in fines for “obstructing an investigation.”
“The Office of the Election Commissioner does not comment on investigations that it may, or may not be, conducting,” a spokesperson for the election commissioner said in a statement to Global News on Friday.
The election commissioner began investigating 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.
Kenney has denied his involvement in the alleged 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 on Thursday.
“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.”
Park is maintaining his innocence and told Global News he’s exploring his legal options for an appeal.
With files from Global News’ Julia Wong, Phil Heidenreich, and the Canadian Press.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.