Peck offers first insider account of Olympic loan leak panic

Lawyer Richard Peck’s Vancouver Olympic Village Document Leak Review, Phase One, distributed at council yesterday, contains this striking disclosure: the much-ballyhooed numbered document system used to protect the Olympic loan secret had never been used before in the city’s history.

In other words, the very first time the City of Vancouver issued numbered documents to city councillors, a leak occurred that arguably changed the course of the 2008 civic election.

Peck’s report dryly documents the panic that followed the discovery that a copy of the secret report was missing after a lengthy in camera meeting Oct. 14, the day before the election began in earnest.

City legal services director Francie Connell told Peck that the numbering procedure, created by former deputy city manager Jody Andrews on the fly, was unprecedented and “extraordinary.”

Andrews and others were rushing to complete the report, revising up the last minute. It contained sensitive details of the options confronting council in the wake of Fortress Investment Group’s decision to deny new financing to the Olympic Village project. In fact, Fortress had been withholding funds for months, a fact not disclosed to councillors until they received Andrews’ report just half an hour before the meeting.

Each copy was numbered and had a councillor’s name on the cover. But “no sign-off or check-out system was used to confirm that all of the reports had been turned in before the participants left the room.” Councillors simply tossed their copies on the table as they left the meeting in the Mayor’s office.

Ten minutes after the meeting ended, Andrews discovered one copy — Peter Ladner’s — was missing. He approached Ladner and asked for the report. Ladner satisfied Andrews he didn’t have it. Councillors Kim Capri and B.C. Lee were approached and questioned as well. No report. Peck’s account of the search ends there.

Two days later,  Ladner’s missing report reappeared on B.C. Lee’s desk.

On Nov. 6, Mason filed his front-page scoop entitled “Athletes’ village to get $100-million loan.”

But as Peck notes,  “it is not clear whether the quoted information [in Mason’s report] was drawn from the report itself or from the meeting minutes.”

The leak may not have been derived from the report at all. And as Peck notes, no one is even sure if  Mason actually received a copy of either document or had simply received an oral briefing. Mason isn’t saying.

But let’s assume it was Ladner’s report that somehow formed the basis of Mason’s story. What violations of protocol occurred that allowed this to happen?

“In fact,” Peck writes, “the City does not have any policies to govern the collection and destruction of confidential information after an in camera meeting.”

Former Mayor Sam Sullivan demanded a police probe of the leak, which is continuing. Calculated media leaks were organized to suggest that Councillor Raymond Louie was responsible for the leak because swipe card data that somehow found its way into media hands implied the Louie was in the City Hall councillor’s area about the time Ladner’s report reappeared. He steadfastly denied the allegations.

So what other possibilities are there for a source? What areas are police likely to probe?

Take your pick:

  • “It is unknown at this point how many people had access to the drafts of this report in the hours and days leading up to the Council meeting,” but they include staff in the Clerk’s Office, the City Manager’s Office, reeal estate and legal services.
  • “No one kept track of who returned their reports.”
  • It is “not known how many persons within the City Clerk’s office are ‘designated’ to perform confidential photocopying.”
  • It is the city’s “common practice to allow Council memberrs to take the contents of the in camera package with them.”
  • There is no consistent procedure on shredding.
  • The source could have been the minutes of the meeting, a possibility never raised until Peck’s report.

This could take a while.