The Hoarders of Virtue

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While the liberal minded managerial class attempts to hoard the discourse on social justice, they are largely unconcerned in any meaningful way of opposing the repressive structures of the political and economic establishment. Virtue signalling and self-serving performative acts relating to identity, vainly attempting to claim a higher moral and ethical standing, have replaced any real actions that might result in elevating economic and social justice for the working class. It is a person’s low income that is the greatest determinative factor of being marginalized. Issues related to identity intersect with economic class and status.

Instead of a focus on practical assistance to those living on the economic margins, the vanguard of radical centrists in the managerial class focus on populating local organizations in order to direct financial resources to their own pet projects. As leading participants, they insist that their efforts not be held to fair accountability or reasonable transparency. Sometimes these committee members manage to serve themselves to a financial retainer or they create organizational policies that give themselves access to employment that is not tendered publicly for expressions of interest. These policies can intentionally exclude other qualified residents, and are only a small part of how local publicly funded budgets can be manipulated.

When it comes to a lack of transparency and public accountability, DenmanWorks (DW) Chairperson Anthony Gregson is unrivalled. Gregson holds the position of Chair, past his 4 year term limit, and does not publish the minutes of DW, nor advertise for recruitment of DW Board membership, or publish DW meeting times. The last DW meeting minutes published are from 2018, the year Gregson was elected. DW Board members are recruited by himself without public notice, including his latest recruits. All this is in contravention of DW’s own bylaws. He was granted a one year extension to his position by his hand picked Board. It’s Gregson’s private domain to determine the DW Board membership, and who gets public funds from the CVRD. In other words, he’s peddling influence. 

Bronwyn Schuster, publicist of the DW sponsored and publicly funded Denman Island Bus Service, admitted to covertly using their position to peddle influence with tax funded advertising, aiming false claims of bigotry at The Islands Grapevine (TIG), then posted these accusations on Denman social media. The online outrage that resulted has targeted TIG and its employees, who live on the margins of low incomes and rental housing. Privately, TIG received broad support, mostly from people who feared speaking out against these performative virtue-signalling bullies. TIG has been committed to the inclusion of a wide diversity of perspectives for more than 30 years, and is the primary source for community information, events, and advertising for local businesses and services, even printing the monthly Flagstone publication at below market costs.

When TIG published the story of Schuster’s attempt to extort editorial policy changes, Team TIG did not accuse Gregson or DW as having done anything wrong. Indeed, Schuster claimed to have acted alone and without the knowledge of their colleagues. At that point, Gregson had TIG publisher Mike Van Santvoord removed from his position on the DW Board, even after acknowledging the truth of the wrongdoing by Schuster, saying only that Van Santvoord had brought “disrepute” to DW. Gregson also fired Van Santvoord from his job managing the visitdenmanisland.ca website without cause, contrary to B.C. Labour laws. There were no professional consequences for Schuster at all. Apparently, in Gregson’s view, it’s worse to expose wrongdoing than to commit it. This is his brand of social justice.

Under DW’s bylaws, and their adopted bylaws of the B.C. Societies Act, a vote to remove a Board member cannot be taken without making a specific charge of malfeasance, and giving that person an opportunity to speak with the Board prior to a vote to remove the member. Neither of these things happened. Presumably, a vote to remove Van Santvoord was taken, but we can’t confirm this because no DW meeting minutes have been published. Repeated inquiries to DW asking for explanations have gone unanswered; no transparency, and no accountability. TIG doesn’t assume the other DW Board members were aware, or were made aware of the relevant bylaws, and it isn’t our intention to imply wrongdoing by other DW members; Ember Hutchens, Robert Newton, Julie Geremia, Laura Pope, and Caitlin Fogarty.

We often see the managerial class on Denman social media, smearing others with all kinds of unfounded accusations, and directing campaigns of cancel culture, while attempting to undermine TIG by directing public advertising dollars elsewhere, claiming that their position as publicly funded managers entitles them to behave as the sole client in determining where tax supported funds will be spent on behalf of the actual clients, all residents of Denman Island. Who gave them this entitlement? The standards of conduct for non-profits and public agencies forbid this kind of influence peddling. These authoritarians have only empowered themselves, and they attempt to justify it by hoarding all virtue as their exclusive domain, controlling the levers of public influence, and working to silence those who expose their lack of integrity.

TIG has filed complaints with the B.C. Societies Act, and the Ombudsperson. We’ll let Gregson explain his actions to these agencies, because the Denman Island community seems unable or unwilling to hold these people to account. TIG previously reached out to Schuster and Sam Borthwick to settle these matters privately, following our offer to Schuster to publish their concerns in TIG. We then accepted an offer from the CVRD to support a restorative justice mediated process, while Gregson, Schuster, and Borthwick refused to participate, after breaking an agreement to publicly apologize. It’s these people and their allies, lacking an ethical compass, who bring disrepute to Denman’s publicly funded community organizations.