Betanko letter surfaces during election campaign

Political ghost comes back to haunt one of Parksville's mayoral candidates

This letter is someone’s idea of a joke. A bad one at that, says one of the candidates in the Parksville mayoral campaign.

A letter to the editor was dropped off Wednesday at The News, signed by Warren Betanko.

That’s the name used in a series of political attack letters in the 1990s in Parksville and elsewhere — a name determined to be used in a fake manner by Paul Reitsma during his time as mayor of Parksville and BC Liberal MLA. The letters at that time, found to be penned by Reitsma, were often complimentary of him and critical of his political opponents.

The current letter is not his doing, Reitsma says, adding he would be stupid to do it again.

Reitsma said he spent the last six years working through his own feelings over the events of the 1990s, and this new letter is an affront to that.

“I am asked by people if they can write letters supporting me now,” said Reitsma, a candidate for mayor in Parksville on Nov. 19, 2011. “I tell them yes, but be polite and be sure to include their contact information.”

He added he hopes the person who dropped the letter off at The News comes forward.

Staff at The News saw a man in a fisherman’s cap drop the letter off at the front desk. By the time the envelope was opened, the man had gone.

The phone number on the letter is that of the mayor’s office at Parksville city hall. Electoral officer Lynn Kitchen said it’s a concern that the letter has come up during the municipal election campaign, as a certain amount of such shenanigans could pave the way for candidates to challenge results. Kitchen said she’ll be keeping track of such items, just in case.

Since it is a fake, the letter itself will not be published. It is The News’ letters policy that all those submitted include the writer’s name, home town and contact phone number. The numbers are never published, but are used by staff for author confirmation purposes. This policy has been in effect for at least eight years.

Discovery by this paper and other local media that Reitsma had written false letters in the 1990s, and lied about it, led to a recall campaign and his subsequent resignation as an MLA in 1998.

Reitsma told The News last month that he acknowledged he was wrong at the time and worked through his own issues to be able to run for office again.


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