It seems that an outrageous smear campaign has been launched against a Whatcom County Councilmember, Satpal Sidhu, by a previous Councilmember, Mrs. Kathy Kershner, who ran against Mr. Sidhu in 2015. In her cover letter, Mrs. Kershner asks, “What responsibility does Sidhu bear for TreOil’s pollution of our waterways?” From our analysis, the answer is none. On May 18, 2017 and again on May 25, 2017, NW Citizen received emails from Mrs. Kershner that included documents suggesting that Mr. Sidhu is personally responsible for the pollution and environmental damage that occurred at the former TreOil Industries tall-oil processing plant in Ferndale over the last 30 years.
Editor John Servais and I interviewed Mr. Sidhu on May 21st in order to listen to his side of the story. Mr. Sidhu was more than willing to share his story and his past history with us to help us understand the truth.
According to Mr. Sidhu, he was hired by TreOil Industries in 1988 as the project manager for the design and construction of the tall oil processing facility. After more than two years of construction, he was asked to stay on as the VP of Operations to bring the facility up to production. Mr. Sidhu informed us that as a part of his duties, he was in charge of applying for all processing permits, including the NPDES permit in question, which was given a provisional approval by the DOE in 1991. In the first quarter of 1992, Mr. Sidhu left TreOil for other opportunities.
Later, in August 1992, the DOE visited TreOil for inspection and noted that no one was on the property, as stated in their inspection report. Because of that, DOE wrote a formal letter to TreOil and addressed it to Mr. Sidhu, as his name was on the original application paperwork. The DOE did not know that Mr. Sidhu had since left the company.
We asked Mr. Sidhu about the unpaid vendor bills and the legal action that followed. Mr. Sidhu informed us that he was not an employee of TreOil at the time of the lawsuits, and that he was named in the court action only because he was the former VP of Operations. This is a common practice by attorneys, and Mr. Sidhu did not dispute their claims. Mr. Sidhu told us that as far as he knows, the cases were settled by the owner.
As a former loan officer and branch manager for mortgage companies, I conducted in-depth research into the corporate documents to determine if Mr. Sidhu had any ownership interest in the Campbell Land Corporation, a corporation owned by Mr. Gill, the owner of TreOil Industries. I did not find any evidence that indicated that Mr. Sidhu had an ownership interest in TreOil. During the interview Mr. Sidhu indicated that he had no such ownership interest at any time in TreOil Industries.
Mrs. Kershner’s suggestion that Mr. Sidhu is guilty of some sort of unethical behavior with regard to Mr. Gill’s application for borrowing $5 million dollars while using the TreOil property as collateral falls flat on its face, because Mr. Sidhu was never a co-investor or co-owner of TreOil. He was only an employee, from 1988 to early 1992. His name does not appear on any of the Deeds of Trust recorded with the Whatcom County Auditor’s office. In other words, this accusation is an example of guilt being assigned to Mr. Sidhu, not because of any evidence of wrongdoing but by his association with a separate person, whom Mrs. Kershner appears to consider an offender.
Mrs. Kershner also asks why Mr. Sidhu, who advocates a clean environment, “would be party to the TreOil operation in the first place?” The answer is simple, the sap from pine trees extracted during the pulping process is an organic oil, which can be processed into valuable products. Otherwise, this valuable resource will end up as boiler fuel in a pulp mill. Mr. Sidhu informed us that tall-oil processing plants are in operation all over the United States, and these products are used as raw materials for numerous pharmaceutical and beauty
products. You can read more about this product on page 2 of the USDA website link.
Finally, Mrs. Kershner states, “…a larger investigation into Sidhu’s other business dealings has been initiated and confirmation of his citizenship and eligibility to hold public office…” Mr. Sidhu expressed his dismay at such demeaning line of questioning. He became a U.S. citizen in 1998.
Smear campaigns go far beyond ordinary negative campaigning. Smears involve an insidious, methodical approach calculated to destroy the reputation of a political incumbent or challenger through the manipulation of data or public records in a fashion specifically intended to mislead voters into assuming that a political intrigue has occurred or is about to.
Hence, I urge the members of our community to carefully examine all of the partisan information being circulated about candidates or incumbents during this election cycle.
Before I close, please understand that NW Citizen has since received several documents from Mrs. Kershner regarding Councilmember Sidhu. Subsequent documents provided by Mrs. Kershner seem like the product of internet scavenging and data dump by a highly paid political research firm. Thus, NW citizen plans to publish a series of articles examining these allegations, in order to share our findings with the community at large.
I also extended an invitation to Mrs. Kershner to meet with me personally for an interview. We shared a few emails, but regrettably, she has not responded to my invitation to have coffee and talk.