The Vision Vancouver cameraman who pretended to be a media worker during the 2014 election campaign received more than $50,000 in patronage contracts from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office.
The spending report for 2017, tabled at city council’s April 17 meeting, shows Mark Vonesch received two payments totalling $12,000 last year for video production.
Vonesch was also paid $10,000 at the end of 2014, after Robertson’s re-election. He took in another $15,000 in 2015 and two more cheques totalling $14,400 in 2016.
In total, Vonesch has received $51,400 in payments from the city treasury. All of the lucre came after the 2014 civic election campaign, in which he collected footage for Vision attack ads at NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe’s news conferences.
One of his 2015 assignments was to capture Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s jubilant post-election visit to Vancouver city hall, an event that was covered by all major media outlets in the city.
Vonesch boasted to the Vision-friendly Vancouver Observer in 2011 that he signed-up 100 volunteers to campaign for Robertson, “and a lot of them were under 35.” He heavily promoted Vision and the successful re-election campaign on his social media channels in 2014.
Vonesch is the co-founder of the Tides Canada-funded non-profit Reel Youth. Reel Youth was recently featured on CBC’s The National for helping youths near Toronto produce short documentaries about homeless seniors.
Neither Vonesch nor Robertson nor his chief of staff, Kevin Quinlan, responded for comment.
Robertson’s staff spent more than $9,500 on communications supplies in 2017, including $3,000 on Facebook ads. City of Vancouver also has a communications department of more than 40 people, headed by Rena Kendall-Craden. She was paid $168,609 in 2017.
Payments to Vonesch were part of the $116,451.68 that Robertson spent on consultants in 2017, up from $106,314.67 in 2016.
Claudia Kelly Li was the highest-paid consulting contractor. She invoiced for almost $50,000 as “community engagement consultant,” plus $4,500 from her Art of People company. Catherine Chan invoiced $30,000 for Chinese translation and Chinese media monitoring.
The Mayor’s Office spent $935,223.35 last year. The biggest line item, $640,479.05, was for salaries for political staff.
Two of Robertson communication aides, Katie Robb and Sarah Zaharia, left 12th and Cambie in 2017 to join the NDP government. Zaharia’s former partner, Adrian Crook, is seeking the NPA’s nomination to run for city council on mayoral hopeful Coun. Hector Bremner’s slate. Crook volunteered for Vision during the 2014 campaign.
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