Like pulling bears’ teeth

Efforts to gain information from certain government sources can be a grizzly task. Recently, I sought information from the office of Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

In my effort to gather specific information, I first sent a query via the premier’s website.

What follows is the thread of emails between myself and

Stelmach’s director of communications, Jerry Bellikka. Our perspectives are polar.

To date, my questions have not been answered. As you’ll see…

1. May 8, 2010

Honestly Ed!

Dear Premier Stelmach,

I am a journalist working on a story about the payment of money by provincial political parties to their leaders/premiers. Can you please answer the following questions? I thank you in advance for your replies.

1. Can you please confirm whether you do, or do not, receive funds from your party?

2. If yes, when did you first receive such payments?

3. If yes, how much do you receive annually from your party?

4. How much do you receive annually in your role as Premier from the government of Alberta?

5. Can you please provide a quote in explanation of why your party pays you, why you accept, or why this practice is not followed.

If you do not wish to answer any of the prior questions, can you please provide a reason why you choose not to answer the questions. Again, I thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

2. Mon, May 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM

from: Jerry Bellikka, Director of Media Relations Office of the Premier of Alberta

to: Jack Locke

I understand you are looking for information about salary paid to Premier Ed Stelmach. I would be happy to try and assist you with information. I can be contacted at… (the Premier’s office).

3. Tue, May 11, 2010 at 7:46 AM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Dear Jerry Bellikka,

Thank you for your reply.

1. By my calculations, Premier Ed Stelmach receives $159,450 pay per year from the Alberta government. Can you confirm this is accurate?

2. I also seek the amount the Premier receives from the PC Association of Alberta; and

3. Whether he receives any other amount in his political capacity, from other sources. Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

4. Tue, May 11, 2010 at 8:37 AM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

I’m not aware of any payments from the PC Association. I can get you some contact information over there, for someone who can provide that information. As far as other income is concerned, Alberta has a policy of publicly releasing the MLA Renumeration report every year (on the Legislative Assembly website) as well as the Payments to MLA’s and their Families report, which is available on the Dept of Finance and Enterprise website at http://www.finance.alberta.ca

When is your article being published, and in which media outlet will I find it?

5. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 10:17 AM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Hi Jerry,

I’ve sent an email to the PC Association, haven’t heard back yet. If you have a contact, that would be helpful.

The Premier’s latest Disclosure Report is available through: Parliamentary Counsel Office 8th Floor, Legislature Annex Edmonton, Alberta T5K 1E4 Phone: (780) 422-4837

I suspect the Premier’s office has a copy and I wish to obtain a copy. I know this material is sensitive, though public.

If you are able or willing to secure a copy for me and willing to forward it as a .pdf, I would be grateful. Do let me know if you can get me a copy. Thanks.

As for your question of where and when this might show up, I’ve not yet put out a pitch. It’s totally speculative. A very difficult way to make a living, as nothing is confirmed.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

6. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 10:56 AM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

I don’t have a copy of the Premier’s disclosure report on file, but the Parliamentary Counsel or the Legislature Library should certainly have public copies available. Is this a story about the compensation for all Premiers across Canada, or specifically focused on Alberta?

7. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 3:19 PM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Hello Jerry Bellikka,

All I really need is a confirmation whether the Premier receives money from the PC Association, and the quantum or amount. If he is willing to provide a quote, that would help explain his side.

I am not certain of the scope of the story. It largely depends on what confirmed information I can gather. I would hate for the details to be published with inaccuracies. It would not serve anyone, especially Premier Stelmach.

Thanks for any information you can confirm.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

8. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 4:56 PM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

I don’t have any direct knowledge of whether Premier receives additional remuneration from the PC party of Alberta.

I have no problem providing information that is publicly available, but I’m still struggling to understand what the story is about. Is this a story focused on Premier Stelmach, or is this some sort of province-by-province comparison?

What’s the story angle?

9. Fri, May 14, 2010 at 9:46 AM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Dear Jerry Bellikka, Communications officer for the Premier of Alberta,

Lordy! All I want is a simple answer. I did not ask whether YOU had direct knowledge. I simply wanted confirmation of whether the Premier receives $200,000 per year from the PC Association of Alberta? I want the facts, just the facts.

As for my angle, I might want to determine whether Premier Stelmach discloses this income on his income tax. Please confirm. If he does not, I may have an angle.

But I suspect Premier Stelmach fully discloses his income. After all, I understand he is a choir member in his church.

As a freelance writer, I do not presently know what angle I will pursue, or what information might constitute a story. Without receiving information which I have requested four times, my angle may be “how difficult it is to get a straight answer from Alberta politicians.”

Respectfully yours,

Jack Locke

10. Fri, May 14, 2010 at 10:08 AM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

Jack, I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just trying to do my job and point you to the right information. I have invited you to call me, several times, and you don’t seem willing to do that. I have asked you several times who you are writing for, and you don’t seem willing to provide that.

Open information sharing is a two way street.

11. Mon, May 17, 2010 at 6:12 P.M.
from: Jack Locke
to: Jerry Bellikka

Oh? Really?

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One Response to “Like pulling bears’ teeth”

  1. David J Cox Says:

    Way to go, JJ – have they answered?

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