British Columbia

Portland Hotel Society audit reveals limos, cruises, luxury hotels

The B.C. government has released details of a damning audit of the Portland Hotel Society that led to the resignation earlier this week of the two executive directors and other senior managers, as well as the board of directors.

Senior managers and board of the Downtown Eastside social agency resigned earlier this week

Portland Hotel Society audit

10 years ago
Duration 3:03
Shocking expenses include MLA Jenny Kwan's trip to Disneyland

The B.C. government has released details of a damning audit that shows a non-profit group that looks after some of Canada's poorest citizens spent thousands of dollars on lavish hotels, limousine rides, expensive dinners and even a trip to a Disney 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 detailed over $8,600 spent on limousine rides last year, a stay in a British hotel that cost almost $900 per night, and a trip for two adults and two children to the Disney resort in Anaheim, Calif., at a cost of more than $2,600.

Among the "questionable expenses" identified by the report are:

  • $678.23 for a limousine trip for 11 individuals from Fairmont Pacific Rim to Grouse Mountain and then to a PHS director’s house.
  • $8,657.96 in limousine charges by an executive director in 2013.
  • $8,323.22 on travel to the U.K. to look into heroin prescription programs and for other business purposes, including a hotel room costing £478 ($887) per night and a £35 ($65) charge for flowers.
  • $5,850.20 on travel to Austria to teach harm reduction practices including one night in a luxury king-size room at $549 per night.
  • $3,175.12 on travel to Bristol for business purposes, including one £288 ($535)-per-night room and one £420 ($780)-per-night room, and charges relating to alcohol and spa services and £25 ($46) on flowers.
  • $1,636.51 at a restaurant for a staff appreciation event.
  • $2,694.95 for the Disney Resort Grand Anaheim for two adults and two children, including a room upgraded to accommodate a director in poor health.
  • $5,950 on Transat Holidays. No receipt or documentation was provided for this transaction.
  • $8,900 spent on a minibus and driver in the United Kingdom.
  • $917.83 for a staff baby shower.
  • $1,807.68 for a staff Christmas dinner.
  • $7,024.72 for a celebration of life for a deceased employee.
  • $1,600 in monthly expenses charged to PHS by the executive directors for use of office space within the residence they share. In addition, improvement expenses such as cabinets were also charged to PHS.
  • $5,832 reimbursed for the purchase of a Danube cruise made on what appears to be a personal credit card of a PHS director.

The audit also revealed the non-profit society is in weak financial shape, is more than $130,000 into its bank overdraft and drew $1.2 million from lines of credit and a business loan.

The B.C. government's review and an external financial audit led to the resignation of the two PHS executive directors and other senior managers, as well as the board of directors, earlier this week.

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Directors and board resigned

The society's co-executive director Mark Townsend said earlier this week none of the expenses in question were paid for with government or program money.

Portland Hotel Society co-executive director Mark Townsend led the non-profit agency, which opened Canada's first supervised drug injection site, for two decades. He announced his resignation Tuesday. (Richard Lam/The Canadian Press)

On Tuesday, Townsend said senior managers and the board of directors were resigning 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.

He confirmed that fellow executive director Liz Evans and other board members decided to step down by the end of the month to avoid any service disruption, and that they would relinquish control of PHS to a new board selected by the provincial government.

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.

With files from The Canadian Press