E-mail bolsters complaint re Heed

Police board member tries to influence
media release; resigns

James Weldon, North Shore News, July 22, 2009

Kash Heed

The West Vancouver Police Department has released an e-mail that appears to support a complaint lodged earlier this year against then-police chief Kash Heed, now the solicitor general of British Columbia.

The Feb. 11 e-mail, obtained by the North Shore News through a freedom of information request, details an exchange between West Vancouver Police Board member Nancy Farran and WVPD media spokesman Jeff Palmer.

In it, Farran appears to state that Heed revealed details of a child pornography investigation involving another employee of Farran’s company, RBC Dominion Securities.

In the message, Farran says that she had a coffee with the chief earlier in the morning, and that she understands from him that a man who works at Dominion Securities’ downtown office is “in a bit of trouble.”

The message was sent the same morning a search warrant was executed on the West Vancouver home of Jack Crone, a former Dominion Securities vice-president who was later charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.

It is not clear exactly when the apparent meeting between Heed and Farran took place, but if it is true that they met earlier that morning, it must have been during or very close to the time of the search.

According to court documents, the warrant was executed at 7:45 a.m. that day. It lasted several hours, according to members of the RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation team, which headed the investigation.

Farran sent her message at 11:50 a.m., suggesting the coffee took place prior to that.

If the content of the e-mail is correct, it appears to support a complaint reportedly filed by an unidentified police officer with the police complaint commissioner earlier this year alleging that Heed had improperly disclosed information about an active police investigation to a member of the police board.

That complaint was reported by other media in March.

A lawyer for Heed told the Province newspaper later in March that the complaint was “completely without substance.”

That lawyer later stepped down as Heed’s counsel.

The OPCC let the complaint drop after Heed tendered his resignation in advance of entering politics.

The e-mail makes it appear that Farran, armed with knowledge of the Crone case, attempted to influence the way it was portrayed to the public. The body of the e-mail follows (brackets, ellipsis and emphasis hers):

“I also understand from the Chief (we had a quick coffee this morning) that a fellow who works downtown with my company (RBC Dominion Securities) but lives in West Van is in a bit of trouble. I am hoping you can play up the fact that he does NOT work in West Van! We stockbrokers are having a tough enough time with our reputations these days!

“Seriously, I don’t want to interfere . . . You are dong a great job. Many thanks for everything.”

Asked for comment, Farran said the context of the message would help add some clarity, but she referred further questions to police board chairwoman and West Vancouver mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones, in accordance with board policy.

In a phone interview with the News, Goldsmith-Jones described the e-mail as “a mistake.”

“It’s inappropriate,” she said. “We do have a board code of conduct that governs that kind of thing, so it’s very, very unfortunate.”

As a result, Farran will not be returning to the board as of the end of July, when her term expires, said Goldsmith-Jones.

“The e-mail can be read in a way as though it was trying to exercise influence,” she said.

“I think Nancy was not doing that, but regardless, she’s stepping down from the board.”

The mayor said she does not know what was said during the “coffee” alluded to in the message — or even whether it took place — but she was confident that neither Heed nor Farran feel they did anything wrong.

“The chief has lots of conversations in confidence with his board,” she said. “My sense from (him) is that this was not specific; he spoke in very general terms. He’s an honourable chief.”

Acting Sgt. Ed Pearce, president of the West Vancouver Police Association, said that the e-mail raises some serious questions.

“It is kind of peculiar to sit down with a board member who works for the same organization (as the suspect) and have any kind of discussion,” he said. “It begs some questions there. And on the day of a search warrant? But again, both Mr. Heed and Nancy Farran have obviously . . . given their logic and reasons.”

Pearce noted that the improper dissemination of information can have serious consequences.

“(In any file) there is certain information for obvious reasons that we’re not going to release,” he said. “That information can be very damaging to the investigation.”

This does not mean the ICE investigation in question was impeded, he added.

With regard to the request to “play up the fact that (Crone) does not work in West Van,” Pearce does not know what response, if any, the WVPD might have had, but he said with emphasis that officers treat all inquiries from the public equally, and do not give special consideration to those in power.

A release published the day after the raids by the WVPD simply noted that a 68-year-old West Vancouver resident had been arrested by the child exploitation team, that he had made a court appearance, and that a justice of the peace had ordered a publication ban.

Deputy police complaint commissioner Bruce Brown said he could not comment on the specifics of the file. However, he noted that his office would have only accepted any complaint that made allegations that, if proven true, would constitute a disciplinary default.

Under the Code of Professional Conduct of the provincial Police Act, “a police officer commits the disciplinary default of improper disclosure of information if the police officer . . . except as required in the performance of his or her duties, as authorized by his or her supervisor or as required by due process of law, discloses information that is acquired by the police officer in the course of being a police officer.”

David MacAlister, an assistant professor in SFU’s school of criminology, suggested that if the meeting of the type alluded to in Farran’s e-mail took place, it could be problematic.

“It sounds like, on the plain wording of the regulation, that there could be a disciplinary default,” he said. “(But) it would seem to me that somehow one would have to characterize the disclosure as improper.”

The complaint against Heed was one of two filed with the provincial Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner earlier this year. The other reportedly related to disclosures around the investigation of two former West Vancouver police officers.

Goldsmith-Jones, as head of the police board, was appointed as the disciplinary authority in both cases. She dropped them on the advice of an independent expert, who said the law was unclear as to whether the OPCC had any authority over Heed now that he had retired.

The complaints were lodged a few days after Heed tendered his resignation, Feb. 23, according to Brown.

The News made two requests for comment to the solicitor general’s office, but received no reply by deadline.

Jim Almas, West Vancouver’s acting police chief, declined to comment through a spokesperson.

Const. Jeff Palmer was off duty Tuesday afternoon, and could not be reached by deadline.

The News reached the unidentified complainant, who has now retired from the force, through an intermediary, but that individual also declined to comment.

Back to Kash Heed page