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Staff and board expenses down by $34K at TNRD in 2021

Thompson Nicola Regional District elected board and staff spent $34,161 less on expenses like hotel stays, travel and meals last year compared to the year before.

In 2021, regional district staff expensed $109,099 to taxpayers, compared to $131,049 in 2020. Directors spent even less with $73,395 last year, compared to $85,706, according to an annual financial report coming to the June 16 board meeting.

The regional district revised several financial policies in the wake of a spending scandal that brought a forensic audit and fraud investigation surrounding its former top employee.

Although no criminal charges came of the RCMP investigation, BDO Canada recommended the regional district improve its oversight and accountability measures when expensing bills to taxpayers.

READ MORE: More than $12K in home internet, cell phone bills paid for by TNRD taxpayers

Since then, the regional district revised its bylaws around staff and director expenses, added whistleblower protections and reformed its audit committee.

Regional district staff can expense government-related hospitality bills to taxpayers, like hotel stays and meals, which largely accounts for the $182,594 billed to the public. However, the forensic audit commissioned by the regional district last year found an "inappropriate culture of spending" and recommended it update several bylaws and internal policies.

Expenses among top staff at the regional district vary from under $100 to more than $4,000.

In 2020, some expenses reached to $5,000 with one staff member spending $11,254.

There are around 40 regional district staff that earn $75,000 named in the expense report.

READ MORE: TNRD chair 'will not apologize' for withholding whistleblower letter

There are 33 elected directors named in the expense report, which includes the six alternate directors.

Those expenses range from under $100 to more than $10,000 for the year. Along with meals and hotel stays, directors can also expense fuel costs which are often claimed by those who travel to Kamloops regularly for regional district meetings.

The largest expense claim went to board chair Ken Gillis with $11,426, followed by Stephen Quinn with $9,080.

The six alternate directors claimed no expenses, while some permanent directors, like Dieter Dudy, Arjun Singh and Kathy Sinclair claimed less than $20.

While the report details expenses over the entire year, the regional district now publishes quarterly expense reports to its website.

READ MORE: Forensic audit uncovers 'culture of intimidation' at TNRD

Directors claimed nearly $26,000 from taxpayers from January to the end of March, while the top nine management staff have claimed less than $4,000.

Quarterly reports detailing expenses and cheques to vendors, along with an ongoing report card of the regional district's updated oversight policies, are published publicly in an effort to regain taxpayer confidence since the spending scandal broke last year.

Much of the scandal was related to its former top employee Sukh Gill, who mysteriously left the regional district in February 2020.

After his departure, more of his spending habits became public, which included lavish gifts for staff and expensive dinners paid for by regional district taxpayers.

Auditors discovered Gill directed thousands of dollars in regional district business to friends, personally benefited from tens of thousands of dollars in both discretionary and improper expenses as well as oversaw or directed $200,000 in non-itemized expenses. He also used labour and materials from the regional district and its contractors to work on his home.

His 20-month severance ended in the fall of 2021, but he was still one of the top earners at the regional district, taking home nearly $163,000.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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