Raitt accused of expense abuse
Federal cabinet minister Lisa Raitt signed off on her own expenses on at least one occasion – more than $3,000 spent on a trip to London, England – when she was president and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority.
Raitt signed on the line reserved for the board chair on the February 2008 claim, according to correspondence with the agency's auditor, Deloitte & Touche LLP, obtained by the Star.
"(The London trip) was not pre-approved and she signed off on it when I would not," Toronto lawyer Michele McCarthy, who was in her second term as chair in February 2008, said in an interview.
She says port authority policy requires the chair's signature, adding: "I was waiting for a justification of the expenses. ... Expenses are either right or wrong."
... Documents also show nobody signed off on $50,000 spent at Harbour Sixty Steakhouse in the port authority building, including a $9,000 lunch for about 50 people, and another for $1,000 at a Sept. 11 "internal management lunch."
Other expense claims appear to bear Raitt's signature, and two unsigned claims for February 2008 have notes attached: "Chair refused to sign. No reason given."
Raitt's tenure at the TPA has been the subject of no end of accusations of misconduct over the years, from constant attacks by the anti-Island Airport group CommunityAIR to attempts during the last election to raise the issue. Up until now, however, it's been nearly impossible to make anything stick because the specifics of Raitt's expenses have been a closely guarded secret, and because those making the accusations have had their own reasons for doing so.
The only reason these specifics are coming to light now is that four former TPA directors have been trying to get Auditor General Sheila Fraser to take a look at Raitt's expenses. An earlier, internal audit had uncovered these and other irregularities, but failed to conclude that anything was amiss. That wasn't good enough for these directors, so they took the documents to Fraser and to John Baird, asking them to investigate.
Fraser insists that the AG doesn't have a mandate to conduct such a specific investigation. Baird just refused to answer.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.