CBC Investigates

Former Calgary health CEO Jack Davis' preference for first-class travel revealed in expense documents

The many flights taken to Toronto by Jack Davis, the former CEO of Calgary Health, often cost in the $3,000 to $3,500 range.

Expense documents reveal $500 meals, private-club membership

Jack Davis is the former CEO of the Calgary Health Region. (CBC)

It appears former Calgary Health Region chief executive officer Jack Davis did not like to fly economy class.

Neither, apparently, did he like to commute the 45 or so minutes from his home in Bragg Creek, west of Calgary, on the day of the many flights he took to conferences and medical-facility tours all over Canada and the world.

Instead, Davis would sometimes drive into Calgary the day preceding his flight, stay overnight in a modest hotel on the airport strip at Calgary Health Region expense, and then ensconce himself in one of the wider, business-class seats at the front of the plane that usually cost at least double the economy fare.

His many flights to Toronto often cost in the $3,000 to $3,500 range.

Davis also liked fine dining close to his home in Bragg Creek.

He was particularly fond of the food at Infusion Contemporary Cuisine, where he sometimes hosted business dinners that cost more than $500. He also spent more than $300 each at both The Bavarian Inn and Madrina's Ristorante in Bragg Creek, but it's not possible to tell who he dined with or whether it was for business or pleasure.

The Calgary Health Region also paid $428 every three months for Davis' membership at the Ranchman's Club in Calgary, where the city's power set dines and mingles.

Oddly, taxpayers also paid nearly $230 for a Ghandarva massage for Davis' partner, Joanne Taylor.

"The Gandharva (gaan-darva) is a blissful massage treatment that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit" and it was developed by the (Deepak) Chopra Center in Carlsbad, Calif, according to the centre's website.

Fight over records

Davis may have reimbursed the cost of the massage, the cost of the Ranchman's membership, and those pricey meals in Bragg Creek. It is difficult to know because his expense records are missing all sorts of receipts and other documentation necessary to fully understand what the public paid for, and what he paid for.

Davis did not immediately respond to messages left on his personal phone and email.

In an emailed statement, AHS said, "many of the expenses incurred by Mr. Davis would be completely unacceptable under current Alberta Health Services policies and practices regarding executive expenses."

The scant information about his travel and dining habits at public expense were as much as could be gleaned from nearly 1,300 pages of Davis' expense documents, from roughly 2000 to 2008, obtained by CBC News through freedom of information (FOIP) after nearly three-and-a-half-years of procedural wrangling.   

CBC News filed a FOIP request for Davis' expenses in August 2012, as it had for the CEOs of many other former regional health authorities.

But Davis has been particularly tenacious in fighting the release of the records through the various stages of the FOIP process, culminating in an inquiry overseen by an adjudicator from the provincial Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner that has dragged on for nearly three years.

Davis argued the expense records, which he was allowed to review, are inaccurate and unreliable, and information in them may be misconstrued. The adjudicator ruled against Davis in April 2015 and ordered the release of some of his expense records with some redactions .

The pages of documents released Friday represent only the first, apparently non-controversial batch. A second batch has been withheld by the inquiry adjudicator because Davis and unknown third parties named in the records are challenging their release.

The second batch may be released later this year, pending further review, although the privacy commissioner's office could not tell CBC News when the documents might be released. The office also declined to explain why the process has taken so long and when it might finally be over.

Pattern of inappropriate spending

CBC News requests for the expense records of health executives have previously exposed inappropriate spending of public money.

In August 2012, Alberta Health Services fired its chief financial officer, Allaudin Merali shortly after CBC News revealed he had run up nearly $350,000 in expenses, including claims for meals and wine at high-end restaurants, while he was employed at the former Capital Health Authority between 2005 and 2008.

Merali subsequently sued AHS and it settled with him, admitting there was no policy that specifically banned his spending and that his firing had been without cause.

The Calgary Health Region was a provincial health authority that amalgamated with others to form Alberta Health Services in April 2009. It had a $2.4-billion budget but faced a nearly $100 million deficit toward the end of its existence.

Davis received a $4-million retirement package - on top of his severance - when he left the Calgary Health Region in July 2008. He is now the board chair of Pure North S'Energy Foundation, a non-profit wellness program founded by Calgary billionaire Allan Markin.