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Government & policy

Danderfer sentenced to two years probation

VICTORIA – Ron Danderfer (pictured), former assistant deputy minister of health with the government of British Columbia, was sentenced to two years probation for accepting improper benefits as a government official.

Danderfer said he “made a serious error in judgment” that cost him his career and reputation. “Actions have consequences, and I have to live with those,” he told reporters outside the Victoria courthouse, where he was sentenced on one count of breach of trust. He must also complete 100 hours community service and pay a $3,690 fine.

Between 2004 and 2007, Danderfer twice stayed at the Kelowna condo of Dr. Jonathan Burns, a government consultant and entrepreneur. Burns also gave Danderfer’s wife a job.

Around that time, Danderfer used his power as a senior government official to increase Burns’s government consulting contract from an original value of $110,000 to more than $1 million. Although Burns was found to have provided acceptable value for what he was paid, he was able to obtain pay raises more quickly than usual because of his positive relationship with Danderfer, special prosecutor John Waddell said.

“Really what this was, was the case of a public servant who lost his way,” Waddell said. “He became too close to a provider, who himself was a charismatic character, and he forgot that he had certain larger responsibility to the public.”

Danderfer had been head of the B.C. government's $222-million eHealth initiative, which is attempting to create a system of shareable electronic patient records to modernize and improve the delivery of healthcare services in the province.

Burns was hired as a consultant for the massive project. He was sentenced to three years probation in separate court proceedings in February after pleading guilty to two counts of influence-peddling.

Danderfer and his wife, also a former senior civil servant, were suspended without pay from government in September 2007 and retired later that year.

Provincial court judge Ernie Quantz said Danderfer had been an accomplished and respected bureaucrat for almost 30 years, and suffered “significant embarrassment and humiliation through appropriate publicity of his actions.” He nonetheless violated his oath of office, said Quantz.

Quantz based the sentence on a joint submission from the Crown and defence. It was appropriate, he said, given Danderfer’s lack of a criminal record, his numerous character references and the fact he pleaded guilty and avoided a lengthy and costly trial.

The $3,690 victim surcharge fine was equal to the value of Danderfer’s two visits to Burns’s condo. According to a report in The Victoria Times Colonist, outside the courthouse Danderfer wept while describing the impact the high-profile case had taken on his family, including two adult children and wife.

Opposition NDP leader Adrian Dix has said the public will never know the facts around eHealth spending because Danderfer cut a plea deal that avoided public disclosure of government documents.

Waddell, a Victoria lawyer appointed as special prosecutor to eliminate any conflict of interest, said the case was never an investigation of the government’s eHealth program and political criticisms were irrelevant.

Posted July 28, 2011