Friday, June 22, 2007

City of Vancouver bars elected blogger from Board meetings

William “Bill” Simpson, a homeless man who was barred from Carnegie Learning Centre for allegedly blogging and was elected to the Board of Directors this month by low income members of the Centre, has now been barred again. This time he has been told by the City of Vancouver that he is barred from the entire building because he operates a site which “links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog which contains criticisms of Carnegie with which management disagrees.

The barring was executed on the morning of Friday, June 22nd, just hours after the Downtown Eastside Enquirer and Blogger News Network reported that old guard Carnegie Board member, Margaret Prevost, had instructed Security guard Ted Chaing to rip up leaflets Simpson was using to invite supporters to a meeting.

The barring, Simpson points out, comes “on the eve” of the Election of Officers — President, Vice President, etc. — to be held on Monday, June 25th at Carnegie. "I'll be barred from being elected to office," he points out. Having just been elected to the Board, Simpson was planning to attend the meeting which will decide who officers will be. But when he arrived at Carnegie today, he learned that the City of Vancouver had changed his plans.

When Simpson arrived at the Carnegie Centre Friday morning, Trey, a City of Vancouver Security guard, met him at the front entrance and told him he had to stay there until Director Ethel Whitty came downstairs. "I couldn't enter any farther than the front desk," Simpson says. But he emphasizes that Trey, a black American whom he says is one of the better security guards at Carnegie, had nothing to do with instigating the barring. “Trey was following orders; he could have lost his job if he’d refused.” When Whitty arrived in the front reception area with Assistant Director Dan Tetrault, she gave Simpson a letter on City of Vancouver letterhead announcing that he was barred from the Carnegie Centre building.

The letter dated June 21, 2007, on City of Vancouver letterhead, was signed by Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manager, Community Services, City of Vancouver. Forbes-Roberts works at City Hall, not specifically at Carnegie. At the bottom of the letter was the notation: “cc: Ethel Whitty, David Hill.”

Despite giving Simpson this letter announcing this fresh barring, the City of Vancouver and Whitty continued their six months of stalling in regards to his request for a written reason for the first barring which was executed in Dec. 2006. He was barred at that time from the Carnegie Learning Centre and it’s public access computers. Shortly after that barring, Simpson submitted a letter to Whitty and Learning Centre Co-ordinator Lucy Alderson requesting that the reasons for the barring be put in writing so that he could appeal. Carnegie receptionist, Donna, refused to sign for the letter, though she did put a copy in Whitty’s mailbox. The letter was then ignored by Whitty and Alderson, despite Simpson verbally reminding Alderson that he was awaiting a response.

At the time of the first barring, Alderson told Simpson that it was due to the fact that he had been blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. Alderson, an out-dyke who is presented on the internet and elsewhere as a friend of the marginalized, met Simpson at the door of the Carnegie Learning Centre and escorted him to the office of the Head of Security, “Skip”, where she gave him this news. There was never any evidence against Simpson of wrongdoing, or in fact of even being a blogger.

Simpson says he has never posted on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog, although he supports the content of the site. (He has since opened his own website with a similar name, Downtown Eastside, from which he links to the blog.) Carnegie Board member Gena Simpson admitted in a comment on news site earlier this year that Simpson had been barred for merely being a “suspected” blogger.

The fact that Simpson had not been blogging on the DTES Enquirer blog, despite being barred for that, seems to now be conceded by the City of Vancouver. In the letter on City of Vancouver letterhead delivered to Simpson on Friday, Forbes-Roberts stated that Simpson was now being barred for having a site which “links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog which she claimed contains “numerous inaccuracies and allegations of misconduct, and unwarranted invasions of privacy of other patrons and staff at the Centre. ” Forbes-Roberts did not provide even one example to support these allegations.

"What are the inaccuracies?", Simpson asked Whitty on Friday, after she barred him. She declined to answer his question. Simpson pointed out to Whitty that, "The blog is open to rebuttal and correction," unlike the Carnegie system in which people too often are left with the Freedom of Information Act as their only route for finding out what they are accused of. Simpson then imitated Whitty, using a voice tone that sounded a tad snooty: " 'I'm not going to respond', she says." Simpson added emphatically, "She can respond to charges and we can't; we can't even find out what we're charged with."

Forbes-Roberts claimed at the end of her letter that, "Your right to free speech does not entitle you to damage people's reputations...." It is the position of DTES Enquirer bloggers that City staff seem to confuse accountability with damage to their reputations. Simpson was first barred after the DTES Enquirer blog began reporting back to taxpayers when richly funded services for the poor at Carnegie were not being consistently delivered. Despite the roughly $500,000 worth of management and supervisory staff on the third floor, it was not unusual for members to arrive to find either the Learning Centre or the Computer room locked, sometimes both. When Ethel Whitty and others presented the opera, Condemned, to the media and funders as having been written and performed primarily by homeless people, the DTES Enquirer pointed out that this was not accurate. When a Carnegie volunteer supervisor demonstrated a pattern of engaging in ongoing sexual relationships with clientele, some of whom were troubled and committed or attempted to commit suicide, the DTES Enquirer reported that pattern (but withheld her name at the request of sources.) The City removed her from Carnegie so they obviously knew the story was not fictional. Never in the decade or more that Forbes-Roberts has been the City Hall overseer of Carnegie and Tetrault has been Assistant Director has there been this level of accountability.

Another reason Forbes-Roberts provided in her letter for Simpson's barring was that he had "used the Centre’s address and a Centre phone number for Internet purposes….” Forbes-Roberts lied by omission. She is well aware that all Downtown Eastside residents, and even transients passing through, are authorized to use the Carnegie address and telephone as their personal contact information. This service has been offered for two decades because many Downtown Eastside residents do not have phones or stable addresses. Thousands of people over the years have taken advantage of this well-known service; Bill Simpson is not unique. Kim, Dan, and other front desk receptionists at Carnegie take phone messages on a daily basis for residents who have given out the Carnegie telephone number as their own; one need only walk into the Carnegie reception area to see the lists of telephone messages and mail for residents. People give out the address of Carnegie, which the City bills as the “living room” of the community, all over the B.C., Canada, and anywhere else transients end up.

Now with mail expanding to the internet, Carnegie’s address and phone number is being used there too. One volunteer uses the Carnegie phone number as his contact for collecting computers, etc. from a Recycling Depot — but he is in the left-wing in-crowd at Carnegie so is unlikely to be challenged. James and others working in the Carnegie Learning Centre have allowed members to use Carnegie contact information on the left wing Homeless Nation website, which hosts individual blogs that tend to trash the Conservative Harper government. (Simpson has incidentally never used the Carnegie contact information for commercial purposes.)

After Whitty handed Simpson the letter from Forbes-Roberts barring him from the Carnegie Centre, he specifically asked her if he would be allowed to enter the building to attend future Board meetings. She asserted that he would not be allowed to enter. Simpson recalled her explaining that he could not attend future Board meetings "unless they're held outside the Centre."

It is not surprising that Forbes-Roberts signed the letter barring Bill Simpson. Forbes-Roberts has a documented record of allowing illegitimate use of Carnegie’s barring policy that now dates back several years. There is a paper trail in another case -- which an advocate has told the Enquirer he will turn over to us on condition that we not reveal the complainant's name without her consent -- in which a woman was barred from Carnegie computers after complaining about massive sexual harassment. When this female member would sign up for a public access computer funded by the City of Vancouver, she would be asked by a coffee seller to go home with him and watch pornography, to die her hair and lose 20 lbs. to be more attractive to men, and she was told by another coffee seller when she wore a fisherman's knit sweater and a plaid skirt that she was making him horny as he like that school girl look, etc., etc. After lodging complaints, she arrived one day to learn that she had been barred from all public computer access at the Carnegie Centre.

The female member would find herself subjected to a pattern of undemocratic practices that were not unlike those to which Simpson would be later subjected. She was expected to serve her "sentence" without first being allowed access to an appeal process or being given a reason why she was barred. A paper trail reveals that Forbes-Roberts allowed Carnegie staff to ignore the woman's written request to be given a reason for the barring in writing. A paper trail reveals that both Forbes-Roberts and her supervisor Judy Rogers, City Manager currently on the world stage as a member of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics, were complicit in the barring harassment of this woman. (A second article will be posted about this case.) "Both Forbes-Roberts and Rogers should have been fired after that case," says an individual familiar with the case in an e-mail sent to the Enquirer. "Why are they still around to pull this stunt again?" Tetrault was Assistant Manager at the time that barring was executed and the woman denied due process.

Only this time around, in the Simpson case, the barring has involved activity which DTES Enquirer contributors and several Carnegie members believe warrants criminal investigation into the conduct of City of Vancouver staff. There is evidence that they have abused their positions by arranging for police harassment of Simpson and individuals suspected of blogging on the DTES Enquirer blogspot. As was noted by an observer, a politically astute blogger, somebody with "pull" was behind getting the police to contact bloggers because there was never any evidence on this blog of content of a criminal nature. One targeted individual who is not a writer for the blog reported that the constable who visited him at his home about the DTES Enquirer blogseemed to be doing a City staff person a favour: "When have you ever heard of the police doing an interview alone? This detective showed up at my door after being let in by management, flashed his badge and asked if he could ask a few questions . . . . He was obviously off duty since there wasn't any partner to be seen. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure he's not allowed to perform police duties for a civilian while not on duty. This was done solely as a favour for . . . ."

This was not the first time questions had been raised about whether City of Vancouver staff believed they were entitled to police favours. A longterm Carnegie volunteer walked by a meeting of Carnegie staff in which Assistant Manager Dan Tetrault was present, and reported hearing a staff member announce an intent to ask a relative at CSIS for assistance in tracking down the DTES Enquirer bloggers. There is no evidence that CSIS ever did become involved.

But harassment by VPD constables has now became quite public. VPD detective, Mark Fenton, left a public message in the Comments section at the end of the article, "Olympics Civil City Slam marred by hypocrisy" appearing on the DTES Enquirer this month. "Certainly, if they are trying to intimidate people into not sharing information or writing stories for the DTES Enquirer, this is one way to do it," a contributor noted.

It is imperative that Judy Rogers step down from her position as City Manager and member of the Olympic Organizing Committee until a criminal investigation into this affair and the alleged misappropriation of police resources for political harassment purposes is completed and her past relationship to undemocratic suspensions at Carnegie is reviewed. (A request to the Mayor that Rogers be required to step down is being sent today.) It has not gone unnoticed that the police harassment began after the publishing of an article, "Carnegie Supervisor has Sex with Clientele", which ended with a promise of a follow-up article exposing a paper trail revealing that Judy Rogers ignored warnings about an out of control sexual harassment situation at Carnegie Centre. Rogers allowed the situation to remain unchecked, to the point where a Carnegie supervisor was having sex with clientele. (Some of her clients had mental health problems; one committed suicide and another hung himself from a bridge but survived and is confined to a wheelchair.) This 'coincidence' must be investigated.

The criminal investigation should be expanded to include the fact that when the DTES Enquirer reported on Simpson being barred by Carnegie for blogging, the Enquirer blog was hacked. Words were changed to make Simpson a "homo" blogger instead of a "homeless" blogger. The name of his website, was altered to "", suggesting he was as pedophile, etc., etc. He is not gay. He is not a pedophile. But this material was read by numerous people on the web. Eventually the entire DTES Enquirer blog was deleted. As well, DTES Enquirer postings to the news site, NowPublic were hacked, with smear inserted into the text. But a pattern began to be noticed: the hacking occurred only if Enquirer contributers used their password on Carnegie computers. This led to speculation that Spyware was operating on their computers. (Another man, Elvis, who was doing his own blog independently came to the conclusion that he was under surveillance when blogging at Carnegie; a Security guard even intercepted him once while he was blogging and barked, "You can't write that." When Assistant Manager Dan Tetault was told, he did nothing.)

Mayor Sam Sullivan, who has been made aware in the past of blogger harassment at the City- operated and funded Carnegie Centre, has so far done nothing. It is time for him to intervene. Ironically, some of Simpson's views -- which are not palatable to the left wingers who operate Carnegie -- are similar to the Mayor's: specifically, the Mayor's view expressed during his election campaign that the poverty industry on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is ultimately "disempowering" to those it is intended to help. The Mayor who became wheelchair bound after a water skiing accident, has, like Simpson, been mired in the poverty industry.

First, Mayor Sullivan must ensure that Simpson, an elected official at a City institution, is not blocked from attending meetings. The next meeting is Monday, June 25th at 5:30 p.m., so the Mayor must act quickly. It is noteworthy that Jacquie-Forbes Roberts wrote in her letter to Simpson, "We are continuing to investigate this matter. In the interim, we have determined to bar you from the Carnegie Centre until our enquiries are complete." Shouldn't the enquiries be complete before the barring? Simpson claims that they fast-tracked his barring because they do not want him participating in the Election of Officers on Monday.

Second, the Mayor must ensure a complete investigation into evidence supporting allegations that his management staff are perpetrating criminal activity targeting bloggers and eroding the free speech rights of all Vancouver residents.

Following is an e-mail Simpson sent to his supporters today after being barred by Forbes-Roberts:

Hi folks,

Well we wondered and now we know, what their tactics would be, I am
banned from the building and as such am unable to attend to my duties
as CCCA [Carnegie Community Centre Association] Board member.

I have decided that prudence calls for a short break on my part so I
will be taking a one week hiatus from DTES [Downtown Eastside] things.

The letter came from city hall and revolves around my ownership of linking to with "numerous inaccuracies and
allegations of misconduct, and unwarranted invasions of privacy of
other patrons and staff at the Centre." The letter states that I am
"engaged in activities which are contrary to the interests of the
Carnegie Centre" [and] is signed by Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manger,
Community Services Group.

I responded, "Yes I am engaged in activities which are in the better
interests of the members."

When asked "what inaccuracies?" Ethel refused [to] disclose them. When
suggesting that the blog was open to receive rebuttals and
corrections, she again refused to comply.

"Of course," I am not barred from board meetings, but unless the board
chooses to meet outside the centre, I will be unable to attend.

I left spouting, "the abuse continues... abuse the victims reward the
abusers, that's the Carnegie way."

A special thank you does out to the eleven souls who joined me at the
first Pro Enrichment Action Contingent (PEAC) meeting, even after the
outgoing president [Margaret Prevost] had the security guards tear our posters up. Thank
you very much for being there.

Long lives the residential school culture.
all things matter