Local government’s lavish spending on ‘champagne room’, restaurants won’t result in criminal charges
RCMP say no criminal charges will be recommended after investigating questionable spending habits of former executive in Thompson-Nicola Regional District near Kamloops, which included $8,600 for champagne room rental luxury in Whistler and the delivery of a television to a private residence.
Police said that although they uncovered improper financial practices, they found no clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The RCMP launched the investigation in March 2021 following a series of reports from Kamloops This Week reporter Jessica Wallace detailing many dubious expenses which had been charged to the regional district by its former chief executive, Sukh Gill, who left his post in February 2020.
They included $8,602.41 for the rental of a luxury “champagne room” at a Whistler hotel during the 2018 Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention and lavish dinners at Kamloops restaurants. .
Other anomalies included dedicated gift cards for TNRD staff allegedly provided to family and friends and contract work awarded without going to tender.
The RCMP’s Federal Financial Integrity and Sensitive Serious and Organized Crime Investigations Unit took control of the investigation weeks after the spending stories were published.
Spokesman Sergeant Kris Clark said on Tuesday that no criminal charges were warranted because there was insufficient evidence to make a conviction likely.
Nearly $200,000 in irregular expenses
Further details of Gill’s expenses were released Monday when the Thompson-Nicola Regional District released a heavily redacted copy of a forensic audit it was commissioned in 2021.
The report, written by Jervis Rodrigues and Simon Padgett of BDO Canada, said Gill had created an “inappropriate spending culture within TNRD, which had the effect of attracting and involving many employees”.
“During lunches and dinners billed, Individual 29 instructed other attendees to put the bill on their company credit card, causing other employees to submit expense forms,” the authors wrote.
The report – which cost the district $497,427.50 – also states that several employees said they were listed as taking part in paid lunches they did not attend.
In total, over 12,000 documents were reviewed and the audit revealed that nearly $200,000 of over $755,000 in expenses were not properly documented.
Clark says investigators also reviewed receipts listing people who claim they did not attend certain dinners billed by Gill, but said there was not enough evidence to warrant further investigation or the recommendation of accusations.
The audit also included 69 recommendations on how to improve financial transparency and safeguards within the regional district.
These recommendations were unanimously accepted.