Mark Townsend admits to making many mistakes, but says he simply followed his heart when it came to spending decisions at the Portland Hotel Society.

The outgoing executive director of the organization serving Vancouver's Downtown Eastside held fast to his stand that the society's leaders needed to travel to New York and other cities in order to advocate for their poor and vulnerable clients.

During an interview on CBC Radio on Friday morning, Townsend claimed staff who booked a stay at New York's fabled Plaza Hotel did so because they were working "off the side of their desk."

Mark Townsend

Mark Townsend said senior managers and the board of directors of the Portland Hotel Society resigned this month because of an ultimatum from the provincial government. Townsend said the managers were given the choice of resigning or having the society's contracts with the province cut. (CBC)

"We don't have a procurement department that does this stuff," Townsend said.

"At that time the Holiday Inn in New York would have been the same amount of money, for the same number of people to stay."

An online search reveals a room at the Plaza costs $560 a night, but only $282 at the Holiday Inn.

According to the society's new interim chair, Townsend and other executive members are legally entitled to receive severance pay of up to eight weeks in some cases, even though they resigned.

Faye Wightman has already identified some financial transactions she feels would not have been approved at other non-profits, particularly the society's practice of offering employees spa services in lieu of health benefits and overtime.

"Having worked in the charitable sector for the last 35 years I would say that's unusual," said Wightman.

"If in fact there are not vacations and overtime, that's what management and the board should be looking at, is putting is in place those kinds of policies and procedures to allow for that. So making up for overtime by offering a trip, wherever, is not appropriate."

Some had feared the funding controversy might jeopardize the future of Insite, the supervised drug injection facility operated by PHS and funded by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). The health authority announced this afternoon the site received its annual exemption to continue operating until March 2015.

CBC Early Edition