Did the “Camp Wi-Fi” Bell Deal just claim it’s first casualty?
It’s been over a month since news broke that a government employee who had worked on the PEI Provincial Park Wi-Fi tender process may have had a conflict of interest.
I suspect most of us have forgotten about that by now. with so many seemingly bigger scandals on the go these days…there’s special committees, court cases and motions to be heard over deliberately destroyed government records….it’s understandably hard to keep up.
That Bell bungle now seems so long ago.
That’s why I thought a time warp graphic of a Kerry Campbell’s CBC article graphic of a car leaving the camp (presumably to find a decent wi-fi signal) would be appropriate for this article.
Most Islanders have likely not thought about this for a while; however, I’m quite sure our struggling local internet industry fellow Islanders and families haven’t forgotten about it.
Minister Calls for a Review to be Overseen by Deputy Minister
On July 9th, a Guardian article quoted Minister MacKay in a story titled, Potential conflict of interest’ on P.E.I. campground internet deal: Minister” where he stated:
“I got a call Tuesday evening after supper and legislature here. Somebody on the other end of the phone gave me a little information that was quite concerning to me; MacKay said in an interview. MacKay said he called his deputy minister that evening, who began investigating how the request for proposals had occurred.”
Four Island Internet providers who had also submitted bids were passed over by the bureaucrat making the recommendation to the Minister, an employee who just happened to be a former Bell Canada employee. Who was it? I don’t know. But whoever it was had apparently also worked on the previous Bell deal under the Liberals.
MacKay signed that contract with that Bell-controlled NB company based on a recommendation from that former Bell employee. Minister MacKay then undid that decision and initiated a new tender process when this became public. Now that initial decision is under review by his Deputy Minister.
Greens say: “Not good enough”
As was the case with the 3rd Party review of record destruction when the Privacy Commissioner’s Order confirming illegal acts and deliberately destroyed records, which prompted his Motion 86 and the establishment of the Special Standing Committee, Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker called for a thorough investigation to look into much more than that one tender contract for Camp Wi-Fi awarded to Bell and then rescinded :
“It brings into question, potentially, all of the previous contracts that have been signed by this government if it is the same individual who was involved in crafting those contracts and that becomes a much bigger concern,” Bevan-Baker told reporters.
And that was it…that’s all we’ve heard on the matter since then.
Was Rowledge quietly – very quietly – dismissed from his duties?
I received a phone call from a reputable source shortly after this issue became public back in early July. I was told a ‘head’ of some sort was apparently going to do some rolling, but no names. I had did a bit of digging and came up with the names of the key people working on the file, and since Stu Neatby had mentioned Joseph Rowledge in his article, he was one of them:
MacKay provided few other details of the conflict of interest related to the employee from his department. He indicated some companies had more detailed proposals than local ISPs.
“There might have been some discussions without the local ISPs knowing,” he said.
MacKay admitted this same employee was involved with the negotiation with the $74-million contract signed with Bell and Xplornet related to providing rural internet services to P.E.I. He did not name the employee.
The RFP lists Joseph Rowledge, a senior policy adviser, as the contact with MacKay’s department.
Rowledge was a key figure involved in the negotiation of the Bell and Xplornet contracts. He is also a former Bell Canada employee.
Ever since then I’ve been periodically checking the PEI government employee directory to see if any of the senior employees in the department who may have been working on the file may have disappeared. My plan was to then do up a little update story like I’m doing now.
I went to the PEI Employee Directory earlier today to check to see if those senior employees were still on the payroll. The other people I checked were; and just like before, Rowledge’s specs popped up as well:
But something just didn’t feel right about it all. I figured if a “head was going to roll” it should have rolled by now. I trusted my source.
I decided to call Rowledge’s number to put an end to all the pointless speculation. After a few rings, I heard the following voicemail message:
Woah! What was that all about? I double checked the number. It was correct.
I told myself, “don’t jump to conclusions…there’s usually a simple unforeseen explanation for phone troubles – not least of which is getting a hold of someone at Bell to fix them.”
Perhaps the Minister let Rowledge keep his job, but gave his phone number to someone else? Unlikely.
When I dialed Mr. Rowledge’s number and got Ms. Newson’s voicemail message, I first wondered if perhaps Rowledge got the boot and Ms. Newson was hired to replace him, and whether someone just forgot to remove Mr. Rowledge from the Government Directory.
But just to be sure, I thought I’d see if Mr. Rowledge’s same office/departmental division would come up when I typed in “Newson”. Sure enough, my hunch appeared to be correct that Rowledge got the boot and Newson got his job.
The database people were probably just slow in taking Mr. Rowledge out of the system after hiring his replacement. But did they also forget to update her title from “Project Manager, Corporate Projects” to “Senior Policy Advisor”. Talk about confusing!
Employee staff changes take time and it wouldn’t be that uncommon to have some of these anomalies with a firing, and a promotion to fill the vacancy from the firing. Maybe that explains it. To get to the bottom of this enigma, I figured I’d just call back later when I could talk to someone about Mr. Rowledge’s possible firing.
But then I noticed that it wasn’t the same phone number!
That seemed really odd. Why would that be necessary in a promotion to that position? Maybe circuits got switched so when I dialed Rowledge, it went to Newson working in the same office. Whatever the explanation, I was miles from knowing what was going on. I tried Maigan’s number, expecting to maybe hear something like: “Mr. Rowledge here…what can I do for you?” But like a creepy sci-fi movie with clones, I heard the following:
Another screw-up with Bell perhaps? Instead of “switched’ circuits” maybe the lines shorted and were accidentally joined when they were setting up the new employee replacing Rowledge? That’s it…that would send the same incoming signal to two phones simultaneously. uit without evidence of anything really, it was impossible to draw any conclusions.
Was Ms. Newson even a new employee? I decided to check.
Ms. Newson has been with the Department of EGTC with that same phone number for nearly 3 years, and with the PEI government longer than that.
So why did Ms. Newson need her boss’s phone number as well as her own?
O.K., who am I trying to kid…I don’t have a frigging clue what’s going on in that department!
Rowledge came into his position with Government May, 2017.
If he was fired – [and to be clear, that has yet to be confirmed] – what other deals and or negotiations was he involved in during the 3 years he was in that position that may relate to and/or involve Bell? They would likely also be tainted.
If something serious enough to warrant the invalidation of an entire tender bid process (despite a tight timeline to provide service Camp wi-fi)…if something serious enough to warrant a firing [recall that Neil Stewart broke multiple provincial laws in the course of his involvement with PNP and egaming scandals, and got promotions each time and never had to appear before any committe despite motions from opposition members for him to appear]…well, there’s likely a crime in there somewhere to be prosecuted. Is anyone going to check?
Why has there been no follow-up sharing of information with Islanders about this serious matter? Or for that matter, any number of important matters everyone knows so I won’t even bother listing here.
And what about Mr. Rowledge? Has he been fired? If so, on what grounds? Are there pending or active charges against him for any illegal or criminal matter? Any investigations? If so, by who under what terms and conditions?
If Rowledge has been fired, why is he still listed in the employee directory as a PEI Government employee ?
If Mr. Rowledge hasn’t been fired, why is there a personal voicemail message from Maigan Newson on his phone?
Was Maigan Newson given an extra phone and now has two official government phones and/or numbers? If so, have other staff complained about Maigan receiving special treatment? Have other staff asked for a second phone and/or a second number? If so, how will that impact the budget? And if the EGTC employees are all getting two phones, can someone please explain the workplace benefits of having two phones and/or numbers? Are two phones really necessary?
Has the RCMP been asked to undertake an investigation to determine whether there may be crimes committed? Who is doing an investigation? What’s the time line? When and in what manner will the results be available? To whom will they be available?
Are there other “former Bell employees” still working on any telecommunications files – or similar potential conflict situations that need to be addressed on these or other tender processes and files that also need to be reviewed and/or audited?
How is the review being undertaken by Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet proceeding? Is there anything to report to Islanders on what has been learned to date? How long is the review expected to take? What are the scope and scope limitations for the review?
There’s so many questions. But perhaps the most important question of all for the purposes of effective departmental planning. And I am being absolutely serious here because I would be surprised if my concern doesn’t soon prove valid:
Does the Minister and/or Premier have a contingency plan for the continuation of the review of the Bell Scandal if the Deputy Minister is found guilty of breaching a court order and put in jail over her role in the cover-up of the confirmed DELIBERATE destruction of sensitive egaming records?
Any chance you could call a news conference and give us an update on these inter-related matters Minister MacKay or Premier King?
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: 10 AM
In did a bit more digging this morning. I called Mr. Rowledge’s number and it rang about 6 times and then went directly to Maigan Newson’s voicemail, saying:”You’ve reached Maigan Newson’s voicemail…,” with no mention of Mr. Rowledge.
I then called Ms. Newson and was told that Mr. Rowledge was on vacation. I thought it strange that the project manager for corporate projects wouldn’t know when her boss would be back in the office with September approaching.
I then sent Mr. Rowledge the following email:
I was looking for the ‘automated email’ response with information about his date of return from vacation but there was none. Will he be coming back from vacation, was he let go? It remains unclear. Sometimes the most important stories are not the ones that answer questions, but remind us that there’s important questions needing to be answered. This is clearly one of those stories.