FOI turns up CityCaucus's Mike Klassen's invoices to City under Sullivan, but no contract
Right wing bloggers linked to the NPA have spent the last couple of months spreading dirt on Vision-linked communications firm FD Element.
“Corrupt”. “Dishonest”. ‘Disgusting.” “A straight up gift to political supporters.” That last quote is from Mike Klassen, who has blogged extensively about the FD Element contract on his site Citycaucus.
The remark is in a comment made by Klassen in response to a commentator. Here's the whole comment:
"Chris, while I salute your earnestness and devotion to Vision Vancouver, my friendly advice is to stick to bikes. This expenditure by Gregor's office and the City was a straight up gift to a political supporter, and it's poor value for the money. Not to mention that it is unprecedented political marketing done by City Hall. Just give it a rest. We get that you think that it's okay to bend the rules because it's Vision".
It turns out Klassen is guilty of exactly the same thing for Mayor Sam Sullivan - with one big exception. It appears Klassen’s partner at CityCaucus – former Sam Sullivan Chief of Staff Daniel Fontaine – may have broken contracting rules to make his “straight up gift” to Klassen, a long time NPA and BC Liberal organizer.
A couple of months ago I used FOI to ask for city contracts related to Thinking Cap’s web work for Mayor Sam Sullivan. NPA insiders will know that Thinking Cap is Mike Klassen’s web company.
FOI staff emailed me on September 15th to let me know they couldn’t find any contracts with Klassen or Thinking Cap. But they did find payments.
Beginning in February 2006 and ending on the last day of Mayor Sullivan’s tenure in December 2008, Klassen invoiced the Office of the Mayor fourteen times for a total of $28,299.28. That’s about the same as FD Elements charged for its web work on behalf of the current mayor.
So Klassen and FD Elements are in the same boat. Both provided web services. Both did similar work and both charged about the same amount.
The only difference is that there is no evidence that Klassen had a contract to do the work. It appears Thinking Cap just billed Sullivan’s Office, Fontaine signed off and the City paid.
Well, just try submitting an invoice without a contract. You won’t get paid, because it’s against city policy to conduct business that way. The very first point in the City contracting policy says “Written contracts are required in all cases and must include the following: what the consultant is to do...” The contract must also say how long the term is for.
Tory blogger Alex Tsakumis called FD’s contract scandalous and said it was “disgusting on every level”. Global News signed on to the attack. But Klassen and his partner Daniel Fontaine get free passes from bloggers like Tsakumis and the reporters at Global.
In fact Global uses Klassen frequently as an ‘independent’ source – they’ve referred to him as just a concerned parent and as a commentator from CityCaucus, without identifying his role as NPA insider and Sam Sullivan organizer.
Given that Klassen’s got similar money for similar work with the city, the free pass is concerning. Add what looks like Sullivan’s office breaking city contracting rules to funnel the money to Klassen and the free pass becomes outrageous.
Where’s the screaming headline ‘Sullivan Chief of Staff signs off on 28K in payments to website partner against city policy’? Strange how it only works one way over there in right wing world.
Pot, you’re looking a little blacker than the kettle you’ve been beating on.
The Observer asked Mr. Klassen for his comment on this story.
“I think Ian is right that there was 'no contract,'" Klassen said.
"That's probably because I was doing piecemeal work, charging at my hourly rate, kind of like when you bring in an electrician. I recall Anna Lilly asking me for some kind of letter of agreement to cover her bases in case I did or said something that caused them problems. I can't recall if we just did that by email, or if we both forgot because we were both too busy," Klassen said.
“Of course, the thing about getting paid out of the Mayor's office discretionary fund is that [Mayor Sam Sullivan's chief-of-staff] Daniel] Fontaine and [Mayor Gregor Robertson's chief of staff Mike] Magee can make these kinds of calls, provided it's within their budget.
"I stand by my earlier comment that the City can hire suppliers as they will as long as it is under $30,000 and the supplier is competent. Note that it was [Alex] Tsakumis & GlobalTV who made a stink about FD being 'untendered' on the website, not me. So on that one Ian's kind of blurring the facts," Klassen said.
And my own disclosure: My now defunct company bid on and won two contracts under Mayor Larry Campbell – one for the city and one for the Vancouver Agreement. The bidding on the Vancouver Agreement contract involved all three levels of government.