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This article was published 22/1/2015 (2027 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Red River College officials have asked Winnipeg police to investigate how marble from its culinary arts building wound up in a renovated kitchen in the Wellington Crescent home of its former president and CEO, Stephanie Forsyth.
Lloyd Schreyer, chairman of the college's board of governors, made a statement Wednesday.
"...The board made the decision to engage Winnipeg police to undertake a review of the allegations."
The revelation came as Education and Advanced Learning Minister Peter Bjornson released a report into questionable expense claims and management practices by Forsyth and former members of college management.
The report says rules governing expense claims were weakened or sloppily enforced during Forsyth's tenure, undermining accountability for the use of public funds.
Forsyth parted company with the college in September after four years. The review covered the period from September 2010 to May 2014.
'The fact that rules were bent, the fact that an individual had circumvented the rules, that is really disconcerting'‐ Education and Advanced Learning Minister Peter Bjornson
Forsyth has not granted interviews since leaving the college at the end of August. Messages left with her spouse in Penticton, B.C., on Wednesday were not returned. Red River said it did not have contact information for Forsyth or her lawyer.
The review found some of her expenses were questionable and others lacked supporting documentation and proper receipts.
Of 88 expenses reviewed, eight were not signed by the president certifying that the expenses claimed were true (of those, seven were approved), and 18 had incomplete supporting documentation.
Missing receipts for 18 claims totalled about $2,350, including items such as taxis, books, meals, a flight and an $850 registration fee.
The report found some meal, conference and transportation expenses that should have been paid and claimed by Forsyth as the senior staff member at an event were claimed by other RRC staff. This resulted in the former president approving expenses that she herself incurred. (Forsyth could approve senior staff expenses, but had to submit her own expenses to the board chair.)
The review, carried out by a unit in the provincial Finance Department and the Manitoba Civil Service Commission, also noted inaccuracies in the expenses incurred by Forsyth that were posted online. It found her expenses dropped 26 per cent the year after they began to be posted online.
The review said some items Forsyth claimed were "questionable," including: $2,219 for dinner on three consecutive evenings at an upscale restaurant to hold job interviews; and an invoice for $11,515 for a membership in a French culinary institute alliance. "It was also not clear why three staff, including the president, were required to visit the facility in France in order to become a member of the alliance when a smaller delegation may have been sufficient," the report said.
The report said 16 senior managers left their jobs during Forsyth's tenure -- only one had left in the previous five years, and that by mutual consent. Of the departures, Forsyth fired eight of them, including three who were among the 17 senior managers she hired during her tenure, and without filing any record of just cause. She increased the management team by one position.
The president had discretion to fire and hire senior employees, said the report. "None of the incident or personnel files demonstrated that the terminations were for just cause. Some of the terminated employees were met with to discuss issues, style, expectations, and then terminated one to two months later. It was unclear from the documentation in the files what (if any) opportunity the employees were given to improve their performance."
Red River has always refused to discuss severance, but the province said the eight fired managers received a total of $639,142.46, plus an additional $6,000 each to help find new jobs.
Forsyth also contracted out $379,931.92 for human resources services. Some of the expenses, such as Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra tickets, included Forsyth's partner as a beneficiary.
The former president travelled to B.C. -- from where Red River had hired her -- to hire a consultant without tender for $54,525. She hired someone the report described as in "a close donor relationship" for $25,000, at an hourly rate of $375 compared with a normal $40-an-hour for the job. And she hired a former colleague from B.C. as a vice-president before Red River had posted the job, the report said.
Bjornson said Wednesday he found the betrayal of public trust concerning. "The fact that rules were bent, the fact that an individual had circumvented the rules, that is really disconcerting."
He would not comment on a potential police probe, but said he would introduce legislation to ensure the college follows proper administrative practices. "What we have learned from this is that tighter checks and balances and policies and procedures need to be implemented."
Schreyer, who joined the RRC board and became chairman Oct. 1, after Forsyth left, said the college has no plans to sue her over the expenses. He wouldn't rule out legal action over allegations that marble was installed in her home, which Forsyth sold last fall.
"We do not have all of the answers to the marble, and we haven't been able to get the answers to the marble," he said Wednesday.
He said of the report's 45 recommendations for improving the college's financial and management controls, 23 have been implemented and RRC is "well on the way" to dealing with the rest.
Schreyer would not disclose whether Forsyth received a severance. He said the former president and the college parted ways by mutual agreement, and the terms included a confidentiality clause. However, the report noted a major factor in Red River's projected deficit of $2 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 was higher-than-anticipated severance pay.
We knew about former Red River College president Stephanie Forsyth claiming golf shoes as an expense, ending up with college marble in her kitchen, and having a revolving door on the senior administration offices.
But those were just the start. Some of the lowlights that the provincial government investigation -- available below -- found from September 2010 to May 2014:
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 7:32 AM CST: Replaces photo
7:41 AM: Adds report
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