Travel costs for the director of the Francophone school board of Newfoundland and Labrador exceed $ 100,000 in 3 years
Newfoundland and Labrador Francophone School Board Executive Director Kim Christianson spent more than $ 100,000 on travel expenses between 2017 and 2019, according to hundreds of pages of files detailing stays in luxury hotels and business class airline tickets.
The Conseil scolaire francophone provincial (CSFP) says it has “total confidence” in Christianson’s “integrity and honesty”, stressing that she “has transformed the school board and improved its performance” since she was hired at the end of 2016.
But Education Minister Tom Osborne has asked the province’s comptroller general for a review of Christianson’s travel expenses.
Christianson also drew criticism from the minister after moving to Ontario at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to be closer to family and not return to the province, despite written and verbal requests from the Ministry of Education to return to work at the council’s head office in St. John’s.
$ 410 hotel room
In total, Radio-Canada obtained 40 travel authorization forms for Christianson, giving the green light for $ 108,000 in travel, including $ 89,100 in out-of-province travel, between August 2017 and November 2019.
Received by the Radio-Canada program, she stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto at least eight times, including a five-night stay at a cost of $ 1,500. In July 2018, the bill for an overnight stay at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa was $ 410. A night at the Bonaventure Hotel in Montreal costs $ 353.
CBC News requested an interview with Christianson and Chairman of the Board Brian Lee, but was directed to Vice Chairman Michael Clair, who spoke on their behalf.
Clair said Christianson only stayed in luxury hotels “for specific meetings or conferences with executive directors of other school boards”, or when stays were “at a similar cost”.
Reasonable expenses and necessary travel, says council
The council explained in a statement that all of the CSFP’s trips are aimed at advancing the teaching of French as a mother tongue, including the recruitment of hard-to-find French-speaking teachers. He added that until recently the CSFP did not have a dedicated human resource management employee, which meant Christianson had to travel to job fairs and meet with deans of university education faculties. French speakers.
âIf you ask me, the expenses we have incurred are very reasonable. As I said, if we want to cut costs, we could keep Ms. Christianson in her office here in St. John’s, and we would save a lot of money. But what would it be for? “Clair said in an interview in French.
âI’m not happy that hotels charge $ 400 per night, but that’s the price they set and the event is happening there,â he said, adding that a âminority Â»Travel expenses were covered by other agencies, such as Canadian Heritage.
Copies of Air Canada tickets also show Christianson traveled business class at least six times on school board business. The provincial Treasury Board policy on business travel states that business class travel must be approved by the Minister of Education, which has not happened.
But Clair said Christianson “abides by Treasury Board rules” and “only accepts business class tickets when they are not more expensive or when she receives an upgrade from the airline.”
The Treasury Board transportation policy also states that workers “will normally be required to rent compact or subcompact vehicles, except when, with the approval of the Deputy Minister, a larger vehicle is required.” Receipts show Christianson leased SUVs such as an Audi Q5, Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota 4Runner, and GMC Terrain.
Another receipt, dated November 2017, shows that the CSFP paid $ 1,036 to repair the front bumper of a Chevrolet Silverado in Dorval, Quebec. The school board said that this truck was “the only vehicle available, and unfortunately the board’s insurance did not cover this incident” and that “for safety reasons renting larger vehicles was preferable and very often carried out at a comparable cost â.
Minister requests review by Comptroller General
In a letter sent on Wednesday, the education minister formally requested a spending review by the comptroller general. Two auditors were assigned to the investigation.
âThere are times when there are no hotel rooms available other than a more expensive room or there are times when there is a shortage of rental vehicles. But this is absolutely the exception. “not the general rule. So, you know, those expenses certainly seem to be of concern,” said Osborne, who discussed the matter with Chairman of the Board Brian Lee.
“The Comptroller General’s investigation will determine next steps and whether the spending was acceptable and within Treasury Board guidelines.”
While Christianson is working from home in Ontario, Osborne said no date has been set for her return, despite repeated requests to return to the province.
The CSFP, meanwhile, has repeatedly said Christianson is fulfilling all of her responsibilities while working out of the province and will return when she can travel safely.
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