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RRC asks police to investigate allegations of marble in former president's home

It's been alleged that surplus marble from a college project was installed in the home of Red River College’s former president.

MLS / CTF / FILES

It's been alleged that surplus marble from a college project was installed in the home of Red River College’s former president.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/1/2015 (1829 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Red River College has contacted the Winnipeg Police Service regarding an incident involving a former president and marble countertops that ended up in her former Wellington Crescent home.

The issue dates back to last October, when the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reviewed transfer of goods documents made by former RRC president Stephanie Forsyth. The CTF found that surplus marble countertops, marked for disposal from the college’s Patterson GlobalFoods Institute building, had been assumed by Forsyth and installed in the renovated kitchen of her former River Heights home.

Lloyd Schreyer, chair of the RRC board of governors, issued the following statement on the matter today, indicating that the college had no other alternative but to alert the authorities on the matter.

"As of (Tuesday), the board made the decision to engage Winnipeg police to undertake a review of allegations. The board looked into this to the best of its ability but determined we do not possess the necessary legal tools to adequately conclude the review.

"The board will await the results. At this juncture, it is not appropriate to discuss this further until the review is complete and conclusive."

The comments by the college come on the heels of a provincial review on the high-level staff operations of RRC released earlier this morning. The report carries 45 recommendations, including increased diligence on executive expense claims involving meals, travel and other items, as well as contract management practices, financial reporting and human resource management practices.

The report does not address the marble countertop issue, saying only: "It is our understanding that RRC was reviewing allegations regarding the (former) president potentially using marble from the Union Bank Tower facility in her home."

The review, which examines the period of September 2010 to May 2014, came out about five months after Forsyth left the college after a turbulent four years in the position.

Stephanie Forsyth created a stir because of items she expensed to the college.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Stephanie Forsyth created a stir because of items she expensed to the college.

The report looked at the assigned credit card expenses incurred by Forsyth during her tenure, expenses that are approved by the chair of the board of governors. It found that Forsyth’s expenses had increased by 19 per cent (from $27,745 in 2011/12 to $32,993 in 2012/13). The college introduced online expense reporting in the 2013/14 fiscal year, the report says, and Forsyth’s expenses actually decreased by 26 per cent.

In addition to the above expense claims, the report says Forsyth also received a car allowance between $650 to $1,000 per month and a discretionary expense allowance of approximately $10,000 per year. Forsyth made headlines when it was discovered that she used this expense account to purchase a pair of $200 golf shoes, a cost she would later pay back.

The report also found a number of discrepancies in Forsyth’s expense claims. A lack of reason or explanation on why the expense was made was cited in some cases. In other cases, no details were provided to the board chair at all.

Existing RRC policies allow for the president to reimburse $100 gifts (per person) for visiting senior officials and guest speakers. Though it calls Forsyth’s discretion "reasonable," the report says there were five instances where there was no explanation given for the gift and two cases where the expense totaled more than $100 — including a $1,199 claim in 2010 for purchases made in British Columbia which included $668 for artwork.

The former president did not specify the purpose for the purchase or who the gifts were for, the report found.

The controversies surrounding Forsyth, who left the school with a year left on her contract, was just one of the red flags involving RRC senior staff that prompted the review. There was a revolving door on the administrative wing, as well, where many senior staff left, often not of their own choosing. Departing managers signed non-disclosure agreements, and the board of governors has refused to discuss the terms of their severance deals.

On top of this, the college projected a $2-millon deficit last year.

The college said it has accepted the findings in the review and has promised that senior staff and members of the board of governors will be held more accountable in the future.

"It’s important to highlight that this report is not a reflection of the college as a whole," RRC interim president David Rew said in a statement.

Rew added the college administration will work together with the province to ensure that by the end of RRC’s fiscal year (June 30, 2015) all of the recommendations will be addressed.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 12:34 PM CST: Writethru, with details of police being asked to investigate.

12:46 PM: Corrects typographical error in 2nd paragraph.

1:13 PM: Adds report

3:37 PM: Corrects organization name.

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