Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Taxpayer Watchdog Group Raises Alarm over Spending Habits of U of C Chair

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Taxpayer Watchdog Group Raises Alarm over Spending Habits of U of C Chair

Article excerpt

Tax group questions U of C chair spending habits

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CALGARY - A taxpayers group is taking the University of Calgary to task for board expenses, including executive-class flights and $500-a-night hotel rooms, rung up by the chairman of the school's board.

Doug Black, who is also a senator-in-waiting in Alberta, has repaid the university nearly $5,400 for airfare expenses the institution says were "processed in error."

But Scott Hennig, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, is raising questions about the price of hotel rooms claimed as part of the $28,000 billed to the university and revealed through Freedom of Information laws.

"We got tipped off," said Hennig in an interview from Edmonton. The tipster advised the group to compare Black's and former board chair Jack Perraton's expenses.

"It's a trend of $300, $400 or $500 hotel rooms that (Black) stays in."

Hennig said the University of Calgary's travel expense procedure dictates that flights shorter than five hours must be economy class. Hotels are to be "standard room rates" and that travellers are to stay "where preferred or discount rates - or the equivalent of such rates - are available whenever possible."

The claims show a $1,268.19 bill for a room at the Houston Four Seasons for two nights and another $1,261.71 from the Ritz Carleton for a two-night stay in Toronto.

Hennig said Perraton, who served as chair from April, 2007 through December 2010, claimed a total of $434.01 in expenses during his 3 1/2-year term. Black was appointed in February 2011.

An official with the University of Calgary says the error in payment was discovered in the audit and believes that the institution is doing a good job keeping an eye on dollars and cents.

However, Jonathon Gebert, vice-president of finance and services, didn't offer an explanation as to why Black didn't find cheaper hotel rooms during his trips. …

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