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REPORTING · 10th March 2011
Merv Ritchie
The Mayor of Fort St John Bruce Lantz used to live in Prince Rupert and until the fall of 2003 was working for Rob Ritchie and Ron Bartlett as the editor and/or publisher of the Northwest Weekly. Today he is being exposed for some less than favourable practices, not the least of which appears to involve his conduct with female employees and while out of town on City business. A resolution to be debated at Fort St Johns next council meeting states the following;

THAT, the City received complaints about the conduct of the Mayor,
THAT, Council has considered the complaints and the response of the Mayor,
THAT, Council has advised the Mayor of its concerns regarding his conduct at events in which he is representing the City,
THAT, Council considers the conduct of the Mayor to have been unacceptable,
THAT, Council resolves that as of March 15, 2011:
�� the Mayor is not be permitted to meet or travel alone with any female employee of the City,
�� the Mayor’s appointment to the Northwest Corridor
Development Corporation dated December 2008 be rescinded for the remainder of 2011,
�� the Mayor’s appointment to Enbridge dated May 2009 be rescinded for the remainder of 2011,
�� the Mayor be prohibited from any further travel outside the region for City-related functions unless the Council approves such travel and provided that another Councillor is able to attend with the Mayor

In late 2003 and throughout the early months of 2004 Lantz took on the task of expanding the Northwest Weekly in Fort St John with the inauguration of the Northeast Weekly. With the prodding of Lantz, Ritchie and Bartlett secured an operating loan from the Terrace and District Credit Union (TDCU) and set Lantz up with the task of establishing the foundation for the ever expanding enterprise of the Northwest Weekly. They did this earlier than they had planned as Lantz suggested he would leave their employ if they didn’t expand so he could be closer to his girlfriend Janet McNaughton.

Lantz had other ideas, which he kept between himself and his girlfriend. In the fall of 2003 he had already secured the corporate name “Northeast News” and was acquiring all the technical details, templates and contacts to set up his own paper.

After creating numerous conflicts over petty details, Bartlett and Ritchie determined they did not wish to work with Lantz and began negotiations to sell him the entire Northeast Weekly operation in early 2004. His partner McNaughton was a loans officer with the CIBC in Fort Nelson and she began performing the perceived due diligence required to complete the sales transaction. Unbeknownst to Ritchie and the staff at the Northwest Weekly, McNaughton was already a full partner with Lantz in the still secretive Northeast News.

As the negotiations were in their final stages, Lantz closed the doors of the Northeast Weekly. Bartlett and Ritchie had already tied up, according to Ritchie, over $300,000 to the start up of the new newspaper in Fort St. John and the Northeast.

Lantz didn’t just shut the doors, he took all the staff, deleted all the email and phone accounts and had his new paper in full production looking almost identical to the Northeast Weekly. He even deposited at least one advertisers cheque made out to the Northeast Weekly into his new Northeast News account. Bartlett walked away from the whole sordid affair and began working for CFNR. Ritchie started a lawsuit against Lantz for numerous claims under trade law such as misappropriation of copyrightable material and trademarks as well as engaging in malicious and grievous practices.

An example of the malicious behaviour is displayed in an email communication sent to Ritchie by Lantz on May 21st, 2004. Lantz had locked up all the Telus phone, fax and email accounts of the Northeast Weekly when he began his own paper and made a stipulation to Robert Bonenfant, a loans officer with the TDCU, that he would not release these Telus functions until the TDCU released his name as a guarantor of the loan for the start up of the Northeast Weekly. When Ritchie was able to have this done with the TDCU, Lantz wrote;

“Thank you for the return of my Guarantee.” He then spoke about his perceived hurt feelings indicating he wanted a front page apology and added in an obvious contemptuous manner, “But as I am now launching my own regional newspaper in the Northeast, with your former staff, I will not bother. However, nor will I release the phone numbers.”

Ritchie attempted to salvage the Northeast Weekly, recovering his Telus accounts by exposing these email communications to them, and moved directly to Fort St John. He left the Northwest Weekly in the hands of his staff, which comprised of Barb Burton, Mike Slubowski and Shaun Thomas. Already stretched to the limits financially the entire corporation failed and the TDCU began looking to recover their funds. Numerous lawsuits and counter claims ensued until 2006 when Ritchie was completely exhausted of funds to pay lawyers, and of energy, he resigned himself to defeat.

Ritchie’s former staff; Thomas, Burton and Slubowski then started the “Look Inside” which they sold better than a year later to Black Press (the Standard, Northern Connector, Northern Daily, Northern View, Kitimat Sentinel).

Val Gavin was the Manager of the TDCU when the operating loans were secured for the NE Weekly and Bartlett was a director. When the TDCU began looking to recover their losses a securities investigation was initiated, which exposed a variety of unprofessional practices. Gavin was eventually let go from the TDCU, which itself eventually closed, Ritchie went bankrupt, Bartlett went into debt and Lantz, the instigator of all the shenanigans, became Mayor of Fort St John.

Lantz is currently not taking calls from the Press to comment on this most recent development. Lantz has a sordid past, which Fort St John may not be completely aware of. Some in the northwest however, are completely unsurprised.
Bruce Lantz's opening edition statement claiming to be from the Fort St John area and calling the newspaper he started on behalf of Bartlett and Ritchie offering "competing claims"
Bruce Lantz's opening edition statement claiming to be from the Fort St John area and calling the newspaper he started on behalf of Bartlett and Ritchie offering "competing claims"
Lantz's first issue of the Northeast News in June, 2004
Lantz's first issue of the Northeast News in June, 2004
Do you remember the Northwest Weekly? The Northeast weekly was the same style and was running for dozens of issues, establishing a presence before Lantz shut it down.
Do you remember the Northwest Weekly? The Northeast weekly was the same style and was running for dozens of issues, establishing a presence before Lantz shut it down.