Threats, Lies, and the Misuse of Public Funds
Imagine if you were a Denman Island newspaper publisher who received an email from a local public employee that attempted to intimidate you by threatening to cut off your publicly funded advertising revenue unless you conformed to their personal idea of what your editorial policy should be. No, this is not the “offer you can’t refuse” gangster scenario that you might expect in The Godfather.
In a written message to The Islands Grapevine (TIG), Bronwyn Schuster, who was hired by the publicly funded Denman Island Bus Service to do its marketing and publicity, demanded editorial policy changes from TIG’s publisher/editor Mike Van Santvoord, or face the withdrawal of the public monies used for advertising in TIG from the budgets they manage. While no mobster would be foolish enough to put such a threat into writing, this is what Bronwyn Schuster wrote in their email to TIG:
“I am deeply concerned by the things you are choosing to publish”
“I understand you have been holding an editorial policy to publish everything with no curation [sic].”
“I will be choosing alternate avenues for articles and advertising for the various community projects I am involved with (emphasis added) until you create an editorial policy that holds the vulnerable members of our community in higher regard.” Letter to The Islands Grapevine from Bronwyn Schuster, July 19, 2023.
The CVRD funded Denman Island Bus Service (DIBS) has advertised in TIG in the past, but it would now seem that Bronwyn Schuster has followed through with their threats, as they no longer advertise these publicly funded projects in TIG, and have redirected their advertising expenditures elsewhere, just as they threatened to do. TIG holds a “high regard” and respect for all members of our communities. Bronwyn Schuster has misused public funds by weaponizing them to implement their own personal agenda.
Bronwyn Schuster is being paid by DIBS from the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) tax supported funds disbursed through the non-profit agency DenmanWorks, which is Chaired by Anthony Gregson, who is also a member of the DIBS committee. Bronwyn Schuster’s partner, local Islands Trustee Sam Borthwick, is the DIBS Coordinator, who is paid with the same public money that is funnelled through DenmanWorks to DIBS from the CVRD. Part of Borthwick’s job as DIBS Coordinator, is to advise his partner Bronwyn Schuster on their work in marketing and publicity. Anthony Gregson’s position as DenmanWorks Chairperson, and as a member of the DIBS Committee, is oversight of all public funds that are channeled from the CVRD through DenmanWorks to DIBS.
TIG is demanding Bronwyn Schuster’s resignation or summary dismissal from any positions where they are responsible for expenditure of public monies, as a result of these breaches of public trust. TIG insists that Schuster reveal all of the projects for which they are responsible for publicly funded advertising and publicity programs and they should be required to apologize to TIG and all Denman Island residents for these threats and malfeasances. The Islands Grapevine has forwarded these correspondences to the appropriate agencies and legal authorities for review.
Everyone has the right to express their opinion in regard to TIG’s editorial decisions, but they don’t have the right to make threats in order to extort editorial policy changes, then manipulate CVRD tax funded advertising money by withdrawing and redirecting it based on their personal views, especially when these views are unfounded and dishonest claims containing false accusations. In this case, Bronwyn Schuster has done just that, and attempted to justify it as a defence of “vulnerable members of our community.” TIG firmly rejects any content that is homophobic, transphobic, or is discriminatory or bigoted toward any identifiable group.
TIG publishes its clear editorial policy relating to content it receives from all contributors to the paper and has rejected submissions based on this policy, or asked contributors to revise their written submissions that violate its editorial policies, and these contributions do not necessarily reflect the personal views of its publisher/editor. Schuster’s claim that TIG will “publish everything with no curation” is an obvious lie. Here’s publisher/editor Mike Van Santvoord’s July 19, 2023 responses to Bronwyn’s threatening letter:
“I couldn’t discern if your email to me was a private note, or intended for publication. If it was the latter, I would reject it in its current form, as it violates TIG’s editorial policy.”
“I have attached the TIG editorial policy for your convenience.”
“Your threat to take business elsewhere will have no effect on TIG’s editorial policies.”
To date, Bronwyn Schuster has not replied to TIG’s response to their threats. You might think that we’re being “crabby” about the loss of advertising revenue, but the loss of revenue is well beside the point. It would seem that Bronwyn has a distorted grasp of the facts, a warped sense of entitlement, and a lack of the needed integrity in handling tax supported budgets for publicly funded projects.