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Former City of North Vancouver CAO named in securities investigation

A former top North Vancouver bureaucrat is among a number of people from the North Shore named in allegations being made by the director of the BC Securities Commission as part of an investigation into a stock manipulation scheme.
Ken Tollstam

A former top North Vancouver bureaucrat is among a number of people from the North Shore named in allegations being made by the director of the BC Securities Commission as part of an investigation into a stock manipulation scheme.

Ken Tollstam, who was chief administrative officer at the City of North Vancouver for 37 years prior to his retirement last summer, and his company Tollstam & Co. Chartered Accountants, are among those who have been temporarily ordered not to buy shares under a special consultant exemption while the BC Securities Commission investigates conduct which it alleges was “abusive to capital markets.”

Tollstam is among a long list of people, including at least six from North and West Vancouver, who securities commission investigators allege “engaged in conduct that is contrary to the public interest.”

None of those allegations have been proven.

Others from the North Shore named in the securities investigation include Anthony Jackson of West Vancouver, alleged to have been a key player in the activities under scrutiny, and Justin Liu, also of West Vancouver, whose company Green Tree Dispensary Society operated an illegal marijuana shop in the District of North Vancouver until forced to close by court order for violating local bylaws.

Also named in the securities commission documents are Ryan Peter Venier, Jason Christopher Shull and Denise Trainer – all from West Vancouver – and Cameron Paddock, of North Vancouver.

Those people and their associated firms — collectively dubbed the BridgeMark Group — are alleged by BC Securities Commission to have entered into dubious consulting agreements with a number of stock exchange-listed companies.

The securities commission has alleged that between February and August of 2018, the BridgeMark members privately bought at least $50.9 million worth of stock at pennies per share but had most of the money returned in alleged phoney consulting fees – while keeping the public in the dark.

At the core of the case is the unproven allegation that BridgeMark members are not actually consultants, but were simply taking part in the scheme for their own profit.

In 2017, Tollstam was the highest-paid bureaucrat among local government managers on the North Shore, earning over $275,000 in compensation, according to the municipality’s Statement of Financial Information report. He retired from that position in July 2018.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan, who was on council for seven years when Tollstam was CAO, did not return calls or emails on the subject.

Rod Clark, a former City of North Vancouver councillor, said he was shocked to read Tollstam’s name in reports on the securities commission investigation.

“I’ve known Ken for 35 years,” he said. “I always thought of him as a consummate professional.”

Clark said he was not aware of Tollstam’s involvement in any kind of consulting work for stock market companies during the time he worked for the City of North Vancouver.

“We were paying him a very good salary to do a full-time job as administrator of the city. ... I knew nothing of this happening at the time.”

Clark said he served on the board of Lonsdale Energy Corp. (the city’s wholly owned green energy corporation) with Tollstam and never saw anything questionable.

Dermod Travis, executive director of Integrity BC, said it would be unusual for most top managers of large municipalities to have the time to conduct significant consulting activities outside of their day job.

As an accountant, Tollstam is also subject to professional regulation by the Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. Edward Tanaka, vice-president of professional conduct for the organization said, “We are aware of the BC Securities Commission matter. We’re monitoring it.”

Tollstam did not return phone calls requesting comment on the investigation.

A BC Securities Commission hearing into the allegations has been adjourned until April 9.

– with files from Graeme Wood

 

 

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