The expense records of former Capital Health board chair Neil Wilkinson show he claimed more than $450,000 in honoraria in six years, including more than $500 a day during a five-day period in 2007, for what was supposed to be a part-time job.
Documents released to CBC through a freedom of information request show Wilkinson also spent thousands of dollars of public money on sports and cultural events, gifts, and charity fundraisers hosted by Progressive Conservative politicians.
The expenses are now being revealed by CBC News because Wilkinson - who recently resigned as Alberta’s ethics commissioner - ended his fight to keep the documents secret on the eve of an inquiry by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
The 514 pages of documents detail the expenses Wilkinson charged to Capital Health between April 2002 and June 2008.
The expenses include:
- $455,910 in honoraria Wilkinson charged to Capital Health from April 1, 2002 to May 23, 2008. In one five-day period - Oct. 29, 2007 to Nov. 2, 2007 - he claimed $2,550; more than $500 a day.
- $5,000 in 2005 to purchase the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle auction package from the University Hospital Foundation charity.
- $3,000 in 2005 to buy a table of 10 for a tribute dinner for the former president of the University of Alberta.
- $805 for eight green fees and four carts for an Alzheimer’s society golf fundraiser hosted by then Tory minister Gary Mar at the Mayfair Golf and Country Club in Edmonton.
- $600 for two tickets for himself and his wife to attend a fundraiser for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
- $500 to attend a charity fundraiser in support of the Glenrose Foundation at the ranch of well-known Tory fundraiser John Chomiak which featured then-premier Ed Stelmach
- $1062 to have his portrait taken by Edmonton photographer Con Boland
It’s not known what work Wilkinson did, or the specific number of hours he worked, to justify the honoraria because all that information has been blanked out to protect his privacy.
Wilkinson could not be reached for comment so it is not known if he personally used the hotel package in Seattle or reimbursed Capital Health for the cost.
But Wilkinson issued a statement in which he said all his expenses “were for the benefit of maintaining and improving patient care in Edmonton and Alberta.
“The activities and hard work these expenses represented involved many volunteer hours spent away from other activities, family and friends.”
In an emailed statement, Alberta Health Services said Wilkinson's expenses "would be completely unacceptable under current Alberta Health Services’ policies and practices regarding executive expenses.".
The documents also reveal Wilkinson bought more than $500 worth of chocolates from high-end chocolatier Bernard Callebaut and, on the same day, more than $90 worth of liquor at Costco.
In August 2006, Capital Health paid for Wilkinson’s $388 return flight to Kelowna but there is no documentation of what, if any, work he did on behalf of the health authority during his two-day stay in the Okanagan.
The Capital Health Authority and other individual health authorities in Alberta were folded into the giant Alberta Health Services through a reorganization in 2009.
Health authority expenses became a major public issue in August 2012 after CBC News revealed former Alberta Health Services chief financial officer Allaudin Merali had run up nearly $350,000 in expense claims for meals and wine at high-end restaurants between 2005 and 2008 while employed by the former Capital Health Authority.
Alberta Health Services fired Merali hours before the CBC published its story. Merali sued, claiming he had been wrongfully fired and defamed. The two sides settled last month, and AHS and the government of Alberta paid Merali the $900,000 in severance he was owed.
Former Calgary Health CEO Jack Davis is also appealing the release of his expenses to CBC News.