The former chair of Kwantlen Polytechnic University has promised to repay the school more than $4,000 in expenses he billed that included expensive bottles of wine and scotch, and a political contribution to Surrey’s ruling municipal party.
Gord Schoberg claimed the expenses, which drew sharp criticism from Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson after they were revealed through a Freedom of Information request.
“I find it unacceptable for the board of a post-secondary institution to incur excessive costs for entertainment, especially when they involve meetings that are only between board members,” Wilkinson said in an emailed statement, adding he directed KPU to request that Schoberg repay the money.
The biggest expense was $3,500 Schoberg contributed to Surrey First in 2011 during a silent auction fundraiser for then-mayor Dianne Watts’ party. Schoberg was also the financial agent for Surrey First at the time.
He has also agreed to repay $125 for a 2011 BC Liberal fundraiser for Richmond MLA John Yap, $180 for two bottles of 18-year-old Glenfiddich scotch from an airport duty free shop, and about $370 for two dinners with wine in White Rock in the summer of 2013 with the KPU director who was replacing him as board chair.
“What I want to do is repay the amount and hopefully that makes the situation right so that it doesn’t negatively reflect on the reputation of Kwantlen or the good work that the ministry’s doing,” Schoberg said in an interview Monday.
Schoberg said all the expenses were allowed under KPU policy at the time and had the approval of the KPU board.
Alcohol expenses weren’t banned until after he departed as chair and Schoberg also noted KPU board members aren’t compensated for their service.
But he acknowledged “heightened public awareness” of expenses involving liquor or political donations.
The $3,500 spent at the auction fundraiser for Surrey First was for a dinner with Watts.
“I’m not sure that the event ever happened; in any case, I didn’t attend if it did,” Schoberg said.
Asked how that could be justified by KPU, Schoberg said the university had recently rebranded from a community college and was seeking to improve its connections with stakeholders, including politicians.
“That was one of the areas we thought at the time we should be connecting with – the current mayor and council.”
Asked how it didn’t pose a conflict of interest, given his role with Surrey First, Schoberg said the financial agent reports on the party’s finances but doesn’t control them.
He said the Yap fundraiser was another example where “we felt it was worthwhile reaching out to a local MLA in the Kwantlen catchment area.”
Wilkinson said the claims were “clearly inappropriate and unacceptable” and university boards are required to invest their money in education and research.
He told the legislature Monday that he has asked other post-secondary institutions to check their board expenses, but so far no inappropriate claims have been found elsewhere.
Kwantlen now has policies prohibiting expenses claims for any political events or for lobbyists.
Expense claim for scotch