NDP MLA Jenny Kwan repaying $35K for Europe, Disney trips
Portland Hotel Society, recently audited for questionable expenses, paid for Kwan's Disneyland trip
NDP MLA Jenny Kwan says she is repaying $34,922.57 in expenses for trips she and her family took to Bristol, Vienna and Disneyland that were paid for by the Portland Hotel Society.
In an emotional appearance this morning in Vancouver, Kwan said she trusted her husband Dan Small, who was a director with the Portland Hotel Society, when he told her that he had paid for the family's personal expenses when they accompanied him on a business trip to Europe in 2012.
She said he also told her he personally had paid for an upgrade during a family trip to Disneyland the same year.
"I was reassured by my ex-spouse that he had paid for all the family portion of the travel...I trusted that he was telling the truth," she said.
Kwan and her husband are now separated and have filed for divorce.
She said she talked to him this week and to the society to try to get clarification on his handling of the expenses for the trips, but says she was unable to get a clear answer.
"I've asked individuals involved to advise how much of the travel costs is attributed to my family, and to provide me with the document to verify this.
"As of today, they were not able to provide information....It is clear to me that their accounting is deficient," she said.
So, Kwan said she wrote a personal cheque Friday morning to cover the full amount of the questionable expenses attributed to their trips, which were identified in a recent audit of the PHS.
The expenses Kwan has repaid include:
- $8,323 for travel to the UK.
- $3,175 for travel to Bristol.
- $5,950 for flights.
- $4,100 for transportation.
- More than $10,000 for travel to Vienna.
- $2,600 for a trip to Disneyland.
When asked why she did not question the expenses at the time, the visibly shaken Kwan said, "I trusted him... In a relationship there is a element of trust."
She added she now plans to take an unpaid leave of absence to spend an undetermined amount of time with her family.
"My first priority is to be with my children," she said.
The non-profit Portland Hotel Society runs several operations for homeless people and drug addicts on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, including the Insite supervised drug injection facility.
Expenses not paid by government: PHS
The trips were part of several questionable expenses uncovered in a government audit of the society. Its directors and board resigned Tuesday after the government issued an ultimatum to step down or it would pull the non-profit's government funding.
The audit released this week found the Vancouver group spent thousands of dollars on lavish hotels, limousine rides, expensive dinners and a trip to a Disneyland resort.
Separate financial reviews examining expenses by the Portland Hotel Society — which runs Canada's only supervised injection site — have uncovered alleged misuse of corporate credit cards, unsupported expenses and inadequate criminal record checks.
The audit report released on Thursday also detailed over $8,600 spent on limousine rides last year and a stay in a British hotel that cost almost $900 per night.
The society's co-executive director Mark Townsend said none of the expenses in question were paid for with government or program money. He said the expenses in question were paid for out of the society's administrative fund.
"You have to understand the vast majority of these expenses are non-government expenses, they are from private foundations and their purpose is education or speaking at conferences and they're all funded by non-government money and they are part of the wider work we do," Townsend said
The Disneyland trip was a way of rewarding the hard work performed by Kwan's former partner because the society doesn't offer traditional health and overtime benefits, he said.
The Portland Hotel Society runs Insite, which is Canada's only stand-alone supervised injection site for drug users, and a number of social housing and support facilities in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.