Lavish local government spending on 'champagne room', restaurants won't result in criminal charges

·2 min read
Among the questionable spending under former Thompson-Nicola Regional District CAO Sukh Gill was the rental of a luxury champagne room in Whistler. (Stacie/Flickr - image credit)
Among the questionable spending under former Thompson-Nicola Regional District CAO Sukh Gill was the rental of a luxury champagne room in Whistler. (Stacie/Flickr - image credit)

RCMP say no criminal charges will be recommended after investigating the questionable spending habits of a former executive with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District near Kamloops, which included $8,600 for the rental of a luxury champagne room in Whistler and the delivery of a TV to a private residence.

Police say while they uncovered irregular financial practices, they did not find clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

RCMP launched the investigation in March of 2021 following a series of reports from Kamloops This Week reporter Jessica Wallace detailing numerous questionable expenses that had been charged to the regional district by its former chief administrative officer, Sukh Gill, who left his position in February 2020.

They included $8,602.41 for the rental of a luxury "champagne room" at a hotel in Whistler during the 2018 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention and lavish dinners hosted at Kamloops restaurants.

Marcella Bernando/CBC
Marcella Bernando/CBC

Other anomalies included TNRD staff-dedicated gift cards allegedly provided to family and friends and contract work awarded without going to tender.

The RCMP's federal Serious and Organized Crime Financial Integrity — Sensitive Investigations Unit assumed control of the investigation a few weeks after stories of the spending were published.

Spokesperson Sgt. Kris Clark said Tuesday no criminal charges are warranted, as there is not enough evidence to make a conviction likely.

Nearly $200K in irregular expenses

Other details of Gill's spending were made public on Monday when the Thompson-Nicola Regional District posted a heavily redacted copy of a forensic audit it commissioned in 2021.

The report, authored by Jervis Rodrigues and Simon Padgett of BDO Canada, said Gill had created an "inappropriate culture of spending within the TNRD which had the effect of drawing in and involving many employees."

"At expensed lunches and dinners Individual 29 would direct other attendees to put the bill on their corporate credit cards, resulting in other employees submitting the expense forms" the authors wrote.

The report — which cost the district $497,427.50 — also says that several employees reported having their names put down as taking part in charged lunches they did not attend.

In all, more than 12,000 documents were reviewed and the audit found almost $200,000 of more than $755,000 expenses filed were not properly documented.

Clark says investigators also examined receipts listing people who claim they did not attend certain dinners expensed by Gill but said there was insufficient evidence to warrant further investigation or the recommendation of charges.

Also included in the audit were 69 recommendations on how to improve financial transparency and safeguards within the regional district.

Those recommendations have been accepted unanimously.

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