A former government communications director received a nine-month conditional sentence Wednesday for using his public job to attract ethnic votes for British Columbia's Liberal party in a scheme a judge said caused "insidious damage."
Provincial court Judge David St. Pierre said Brian Bonney used private e-mails to keep his role as supervisor to three community outreach workers a secret as they enlisted support from minority groups and individuals.
The multiculturalism plan started in October 2011 with the aim of bringing so-called quick wins among ethnic voters for the Liberal party in the 2013 election through events supporting long-standing grievances and cultural issues.
Court heard Bonney worked on the plan for the party while he was supposed to be doing work paid for by taxpayers.
St. Pierre said while Bonney didn't benefit financially from breaching the standard of responsibility for public servants, he benefited politically as someone who had backed Christy Clark's successful bid for the party's leadership.
The judge said Bonney's good character, including his considerable volunteer work, earned him a reputation that has now been damaged, adding citizens expect public servants to work for everyone, not a particular party.
Bonney's conditional sentence will be served in the community and he will live under a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. He must also do 60 hours of community work.
"Mr. Bonney, you made certain choices on your own that led you to this juncture and I sincerely hope you find some redemption in getting back to that community work that you were involved in and still are," St. Pierre said.
Bonney's lawyer told a sentencing hearing earlier this month that his client was "an instrument of others," including senior officials in Clark's office.
"The message in this case, at least to be passed on to other public servants in similar situations, is there might well be unfair and undeserved consequences for saying 'No' to the minister but those consequences, I'm sure I hope you agree, pale in comparison to what you're having to go through," St. Pierre said.
"There is much that has been said in this case regarding blurred lines in the duties and activities of government, caucus and party staffers and this is not a case of confusion," he said.
"The conduct that you're being sentenced for, Mr. Bonney, by any standard, it was offside."
Bonney pleaded guilty to breach of trust last October in a case investigated by the RCMP after a draft of the Liberals' multiculturalism strategy was leaked to the NDP.
Special prosecutor David Butcher told a sentencing hearing earlier this month that the plan to win ethnic votes involved a "cynical purpose" with no goal to legitimately engage minority groups. He had asked the court to impose a community sentence of 12 to 23 months.
Bonney's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, called for a suspended sentence, saying his client crossed a line but was directed to do so.
After the scandal broke, Clark appointed her deputy minister to conduct a review, which concluded public officials misused government resources. John Dyble said Bonney was among those who spent a considerable amount of time during his workday on party activities and used private e-mails.
Clark apologized and the Liberals returned $70,000 of taxpayers' money.