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Liberal MLA's campaign financing again called into question

BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS

A former provincial NDP candidate is again raising questions about Liberal MLA Kash Heed's previous election campaign and the financing of it.

Gabriel Yiu, who narrowly lost to Heed in the last election, is calling for a new investigation after a second election financing report filed last month by Heed did not account for or address $6,000 in post-election payments to two campaign workers.

"Elections BC has a responsibility to pursue this," Yiu told 24 hours. "No explanation has been given why constituency account funds were used to pay the two campaign staff."

Heed filed on Sept. 28 a new and amended election financing report as ordered by the B.C. Supreme Court in his campaign overspending case.

In August, Heed was fined $8,000 for violating spending limits by $4,000 in his Vancouver-Fraserview riding in May 2009 but was allowed to keep his seat in the Legislature. That overspending was separate from the two cheques, although both were part of the investigation of the Elections Act violations.

In his ruling in the case, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman concluded that Heed had "acted in good faith in these matters" but that "responsibility for the conduct of the campaign rests ultimately with the candidate."

Bauman, however, did not specifically address the matter of the cheques.

The $6,000 in payments were made June 24, 2009 from Heed's government constituency office account: A $4,000 cheque to campaign manager Barinder Sall and a $2,000 cheque to campaign worker Sameer Ismail, both co-signed by Heed.

RCMP Sergeant John Taylor alleged in a search warrant application Oct. 22, 2010 those payments were "reasonable grounds for believing" Heed might have committed breach of trust by using such funds for "political purposes," which is prohibited.

Heed was never criminally charged in the case.

His lawyer, David Gruber, told 24 hours by email that: "At the time Sgt. Taylor swore in a 93-page search warrant application on October 22, 2010, Mr. Heed had not been asked any questions by the RCMP concerning the cheques to Mr. Sall and Mr. Ismail referred to therein."

"We were asked to provide Mr. Heed's evidence on October 27, 2010, and provided it to the RCMP on October 28, 2010 which was that he understood the cheques to be for services rendered to the constituency office. That evidence was considered by the RCMP and by the special prosecutor, Mr. Peter Wilson, Q.C."

When asked for an explanation about what the cheques were for, Gruber pointed to the April, 2011 statement by the Criminal Justice Branch, which states "there is insufficient proof that ... Mr. Heed knowingly made payments to campaign staff for election-related purposes following the 2009 General Election."

Gruber continued: "As such, Mr. Heed considers the matter closed, and does not anticipate any further legal action.

But neither Gruber nor Heed explained what the cheques for were for.

Elections BC told 24 hours the special prosecutor declined to recommend charges but declined further comment. The RCMP deferred to the special prosecutor.

However, Wilson also declined comment, referring to the same statement from the Criminal Justice Branch quoted by Heed's lawyer.

Heed's campaign admitted violating Election Act spending limits when it anonymously distributed a flyer to thousands of voters making false claims about the NDP and was fined $8,000.

Neither Barinder Sall - who faces criminal charges connected to the overspending but unrelated to the cheques - nor his lawyer Richard Peck responded to requests for comment. Sall and co-accused Dinesh Khanna are to appear in court Oct. 28, where guilty pleas are expected by the Criminal Justice Branch.