B.C. Liberals allege Coons diverted funds: Coons denies allegation

$460K taken from local offices for partisan use say B.C. Liberals

The B.C. Liberals allege an Auditor General John Doyle’s report revealed that NDP MLA Gary Coons participated in a scheme that saw money intended to serve local constituents in North Coast funnelled into a central partisan slush fund.

Coons told The Northern View that his office did, in fact, participate and had been doing so for several years.

“Yes, we put $200 into the pool every month… we asked how we could pool our resources to better serve our constituency… and the province,” he said. “I remember even asking if this was allowed, how do we account for it, is it open to public scrutiny.

“The office of the comptroller general… administered it and approved it. It was above the board.”

The B.C. Liberal press release quotes that  Doyle found, “…funds accruing to this account were being used for partisan purposes and not for goods or services consistent with the original purpose of the constituency office.”

It adds, that the pooling of funds totalled more than $460,000 from NDP constituency offices.

Coons said however, the quoted auditor general report was a draft only.

“The NDP constituency fund, I assume was mentioned in the draft report. It was confidential and I would never see a copy and was discussed and determined to be a non-issue as it was not mentioned in the March 13, 2013 Final Audit Report,” Coons said.

According to the B.C. Liberal release, NDP Caucus Chair Shane Simpson admitted the money was used for political actions even though the MLA Handbook states constituency office funds are “not to be used for political purposes.”

“Less money in NDP constituency offices means less help for those in the community who need it,” said MLA and Kootenay East candidate Bill Bennett.

“This was money meant to help constituents and it was taken away. This wasn’t a simple mistake — it was a well organized plot and they only stopped when they got caught.”

Coons maintained that the B.C. Liberal accusations of constituency fund diversion for political gain were groundless.

“It was above the board. We didn’t hire political staff or hide our e-mails… this was open to public scrutiny.

“No money went to supporting the party. The money was all invested in the caucus and caucus support. The fund was simply to allow resources to be pooled and no rules were broken.

“This accusation comes at a time as the New Democrats accuse the B.C. Liberals daily of mismanaging taxpayer money, but as one sees there’s no comparison here. It is a desperate attempt to deflect the host of scandals that have been plaguing the Liberals for the last five or six weeks.”