Alberta's Finance Department has confirmed an aide to a former MLA has paid back $29,000 in personal expenses he charged to a government credit card, including a Las Vegas hotel bill and luggage.
Sasha Angus worked at the legislature for 3½ years as an executive assistant to former MLA and economic development minister Mark Norris.
According to a 2004 memo leaked to CBC News, when Angus left government he owed $29,000 in personal expenses he had charged to his government credit card. The memo was addressed to then Finance Minister Shirley McClellan.
"I have discussed this situation with Mr. Rory Campbell, deputy minister of economic development, on a couple of occasions, as he has been aware of this situation for a period of time," wrote McClellan's deputy at the time, Peter Kruselnicki.
"I would appreciate your direction on how best to handle this situation."
A spokesman with Alberta's Finance Department confirmed Thursday that Angus did repay the money, but the spokesman wouldn't go into any detail, saying the matter is now in the hands of Alberta's auditor general.
CBC News has also learned that when Angus worked for Norris, the Bank of Montreal froze his personal credit card and his $80,000-a-year salary at Economic Development was garnisheed to get close to $5,000 back, plus interest.
However, Angus still had a government credit card.
Charges include Las Vegas hotel bill
In an interview with CBC News, Angus said senior government officials told him that it wasOK to use the government credit card for personal expenses, as long as he paid the money back.
Angus said he was told by a senior official to buy luggage and charge it to Alberta taxpayers, but he didn't feel comfortable with that so instead charged it and flagged it on the bill as a personal expense.
He also said he used the credit card at a bar and for a personal plane ticket.
When Angus went to Las Vegas in August of 2004 for a bachelor party with several friends who were also executive assistants, they stayed at the Palms Las Vegas Hotel in a couple of suites. Angus said he picked up the hotel tab for everyone with his government credit card.
Angus told CBC News he explained what happened to his boss when he returned and Norris told him not to do it again.
"He wasn't happy about it," Angus said.
However, Norris told CBC Newshe didn't know about the Las Vegas charges.
"No, I wasn't aware of that. I don't have a comment on that."
Norris said he didn't learn about the outstanding debt until the same day the leaked memo was written, four days afterhe lost his seat in the 2004 provincial election and both he and Angus were out of work.
Norris said he told Angus to pay the money back.
"I don't have a comment on what Mr. Angus did or didn't do. He worked for me, he's a friend of mine and if he has an issue with the government, he'll have to deal with it," said Norris.
Province refuses to release records
CBC News has asked to see the credit card records and correspondence related to the case, but the province refused.
Alberta's Privacy Commission investigated the government's refusal and has sided with CBC News.
"All of the records should be released in the … public interest of promoting government being open and transparent in its dealing with tax dollars," said Privacy Commission spokesman Wayne Wood.
However, the Alberta government continues to block the release and has appealed thecommission's stand.
The office of Alberta's auditor general also wants to see the records and wants to know why it wasn't informed about the problem.
"I'm told an issue was raised in 2004. Their controls caught it and it was resolved in 2004. What I will assure you, though, is that we will follow up on the particular matter," said assistant deputy minister Doug Wylie.