It certainly looks official enough, but the City of Penticton wants everyone to know that notices alleging planes are spraying chemicals over the city did not come from them.
“It’s totally false pretences, and fraudulent,” said Chuck Loewen, acting city manager. The notices have the city’s letterhead at the top and are signed by a Susan Smith, Environmental Department Manager and have been distributed on parked cars.
“We have no environment department, we have no Susan Smith that works for us,” said Loewen, adding that the issue has been passed on to the RCMP for their investigation.
Loewen said the city is not in the habit of issuing important notices by slipping them under windshield wipers in parking lots. With a bright red “Alert Notice” at the top, the flyer warns “unidentified planes” are leaving behind. “unusual and heavy chemical smoke called chemtrails.” It also exhorts anyone seeing one of these chemical trails to report it by emailing a picture with the time and location to Premier Christy Clarke’s office.
“This is totally false, totally fraudulent. It has nothing to do with the city. We just want to ensure that people are not alarmed by this. It is not something the city does or would do,” said Loewen, referring to the distribution of the letter. “It’s enough that it has caused alarm in some individuals, both visitors to the area and citizens of Penticton, and that is of grave concern to us.”
Loewen said the city has also received unconfirmed reports that individuals posing as city officials were asking businesses to help distribute these letters.
Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said the RCMP has not yet heard of complaints from business owners, but are investigating an incident where the letters were distributed on cars in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot. At this point, he said, it didn’t seem likely to result in criminal charges.
“It’s certainly something we will look into and see where it takes us,” said Dellebuur, noting that there isn’t a Susan Smith at city hall, the perpetrators of the hoax weren’t impersonating anyone.
“When you are dealing with fraud, there is lots of grey areas. A lot of it hinges on the intent of the individual,” he said. “That’s what makes these things difficult to prosecute from a criminal aspect, but it still doesn’t mean we aren’t interested to put a name to who is doing this so we are, if nothing else, able to monitor the individual.”