BRITISH COLUMBIA
09/08/2014 08:59 EDT | Updated 11/08/2014 05:59 EST

Ethnic Vote Scandal: Brian Bonney, Mark Roberston Face Elections Act Charges

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VICTORIA - Charges have been approved under British Columbia's Election Act against two people and a corporation over the April 2012 byelection in the provincial riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam.

Brian Bonney,a former Liberal government communications specialist, and Mark Robertson, a Liberal Party field operations worker, each face three charges, as does a numbered B.C. communications company.

The Liberals lost to the New Democrats in the vote, but recaptured the riding in the 2013 provincial election.

The charges, approved by special prosecutor David Butcher, allege election-expense violations related to hiring Sepideh Sarrafpour to work on defeated Liberal candidate Dennis Marsden's campaign.

It's alleged Sarrafpour worked on the campaign, but her services were not properly recorded.

"The charges arise out of conduct that is alleged to have occurred during the Port Moody-Coquitlam provincial byelection in 2012," said a statement released Monday by the Ministry of Justice's Criminal Justice Branch.

"The evidence in support of these charges was gathered during the course of the investigation for which Mr. Butcher has been providing assistance in the form of legal advice to investigators."

The B.C. Liberal party released a statement saying it believes the issue relates to financial reporting, an obligation the party takes seriously.

"In November 2013, it was brought to our attention that the party had misreported a $2,240 expenditure related to the 2012 Port Moody Coquitlam by-election," said the party statement.

"In December 2013, the party filed an amendment to reallocate the expenditure, which Elections BC accepted. Amendments are permissible under the act, and are commonly filed by all parties. For example, this year alone, the BC Liberals has filed four amendments and the NDP 50 to their 2013 returns."

The documents released by the Criminal Justice Branch allege Bonney and Robertson and the numbered company used Sarrafpour's services to work on Marsden's campaign, but they were not properly recorded in the expense documents.

Elections BC spokesman Don Main said the charges were approved by B.C.'s chief electoral officer Keith Archer.

Bonney and Robertson are scheduled to make their first court appearance in Vancouver on Oct. 14.

Butcher was appointed as an independent special prosecutor in August 2013 to assist with the investigation into the review of the Liberal government's Draft Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan, which became known as the "quick wins" scandal, and involved a strategy of courting ethnic voters.

The Criminal Justice Branch statement said Butcher's investigation is continuing and the final results are not expected until early next year.

Butcher was not immediately available for comment.

A government review of the quick wins scandal found Bonney, who left government to work in the private sector, was at the heart of the plan to attract ethnic voters to the Liberals.

John Dyble, Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister, conducted the review in March 2013 that found the work lines between the B.C. government and the provincial Liberal party were clearly crossed in a government effort to win ethnic votes.

The review caused Clark's popularity ratings to plunge and forced the resignation of her former multiculturalism minister, John Yap, and of two Liberal insiders, Kim Haakstad and Mike Lee.

Sarrafpour's name surfaced in the legislature following the May 2013 election. She was described as a disgruntled former Liberal liaison worker who helped organize ethnic events.

B.C. Liberals Ethnic Vote Timeline