A fire on her property almost a year ago has come back to haunt the elected local government representative for Cortes Island.
On Jan. 2, a group of 13 people filed a petition in court to have Noba Anderson disqualified from her position as a director on the Strathcona Regional District board until the next election. In October, she was re-elected as director for Area B.
The residents’ petition is in response to a GoFundMe campaign started to help her and her family following the fire on a jointly-owned property on Jan. 31, 2018. Her father had been living in the cabin at the time when it was destroyed by fire.
Last March, a neighbour on the property initiated the campaign to raise funds to help the family build an addition to the home so Anderson’s father could live there.
“After my father’s wee sleeping cabin on my property was lost in January to fire, we decided to add a room onto our home so that he could be closer and all the more integrated into our daily lives, as he does now need our regular care,” she wrote on Tideline, the community website.
The petitioners point to a number of people who donated through the GoFundMe site and have connections to the regional district, such as work contracts or are part of organizations receiving grants-in-aid from the Strathcona Regional District. They allege 27 people who donated to the GoFundMe effort had benefited personally or were in organizations that had.
“Anderson took money from her constituents for personal gain and a number of those same constituents received gifts and grants in return,” the petitioners state.
The petitioners are listed as Luke Daniel Douglas Lafleur, William John Cathcart, Kenny Bryan Carpenter Hanuse, Michael Edward Hansen, Jason Barry Jeffery, Bertha Louise Jeffery, Wendy Marie Lotnick, June Carol Barton, Thomas John Drew, Roderick Charles Gray Lee, Richard Patrick Boas, Mary M. Georgina Tallon, Helene Andree Aube and Edward Charles Milan.
The GoFundMe campaign was started in March 2018 by Lovena Harvey, who is another part owner of the property on Whaletown Road. To date, the site has raised about $3,700.
The court petition asks Anderson be disqualified from holding office until the next general election in 2022. It also asks for costs as well as for Anderson to account for any funds received as well as “voting privileges exercised” in her role as an elected official.
The GoFundMe site is public and Anderson wrote a note to a community website on Cortes Island to thank people that had helped out with the efforts to add the space for her father to live.
“It wouldn’t have happened without this awesome community!” she stated.
The Mirror contacted Anderson by email for comment. At an SRD meeting in December she indicated she would be away on holiday in early January, so she had not been privy to any news last week. She added she was “not in a position, due to SRD decisions, to speak on this matter.”
The regional district, itself, has sent a response from chief administrative officer Dave Leitch: “The SRD is aware of the concerns that have been brought forward by a group of Cortes Island residents in relation to the Electoral Area B Director. The Strathcona Regional District board and staff are committed to pursuing the highest standards of ethical conduct and accountability to all residents of the region.”
One of the key questions for the court could be the extent to which the area director was influenced by her existing relationships. A Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson confirmed that according to legislation, “an elected official must not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected with the member’s performance of the duties of office.” However, this does not prohibit elected officials from receiving personal gifts “if they are not connected to their duties in office.”
A potential complication for the case is the fact the land in question is owned by four different parties. Anderson owns one-quarter of the property. An SRD emergency evacuation maps shows four different addresses on the property, though the BC Assessment Authority only lists one address for assessment purposes.
As well, the recent assessment notes that, despite the work on Anderson’s house this past year, the assessment value for the property as a whole dropped, particularly in the value of buildings. This perhaps reflects the absence of the cabin destroyed in the fire a year ago. In 2018, the value dropped from $926,000 to $919,000. The value of the land increased but that of the buildings on site dropped by $37,000 from 2017.