Texts despatched by former BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay to an worker seem to incorporate repeated references to initiatives and funding involving a housing supplier headed by Janice Abbott, Ramsay’s partner, regardless of battle of curiosity guidelines barring such communication.
Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society has acquired over $121 million in funding from the Crown company since 2018.
The texts got here to mild this week because the BC Liberals pushed for solutions about an ongoing investigation of BC Housing.
Premier David Eby revealed that the investigation includes a forensic audit of the Crown company that shall be accomplished in early 2023. The audit is being carried out by B.C.’s Workplace of the Comptroller Normal, which is answerable for the standard and integrity of provincial authorities’s monetary administration programs.
In keeping with the phrases of the audit’s reference, it’ll consider BC Housing’s record-keeping and decision-making for monetary transactions, consider if the Crown company used public cash for its supposed goal and “undertake a risk-based evaluation of money outflows to chose housing suppliers and carry out restricted knowledge analytic procedures on different funds made by BC Housing contemplating potential fraud dangers confronted by the group.”
Ramsay, who had been CEO of BC Housing since 2000, resigned in August. His resignation got here a number of weeks after a evaluate of BC Housing recognized points with how supportive housing initiatives are chosen and after the federal government fired your entire board of the Crown company. Ramsay stated growing violence within the Downtown Eastside and hostility to social housing initiatives satisfied him it was time to step down.
A battle of curiosity protocol has been in place since Ramsay and Abbott, who has been the CEO of Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society since 1992, married in 2010.
The protocol said that Ramsay was alleged to keep away from any discussions associated to Atira with BC Housing workers, executives or the BC Housing board. He was additionally not alleged to take actions aspiring to affect any determination involving Atira.
The Tyee obtained the textual content messages from the BC Liberals, who say they received them from a whistleblower who has requested to stay nameless. Andrew Reeve, the communications supervisor for the social gathering, stated BC Liberal employees had been unable to confirm the messages. A handwritten word on the doc says that Ramsay despatched the messages to a former BC Housing government.
The Tyee has independently verified that the messages had been despatched from Ramsay to the manager in 2018.
Throughout a press convention in Victoria Tuesday, BC Liberal Chief Kevin Falcon instructed reporters that the textual content messages elevate “loads of considerations.”
“As a result of that is the place a correct board with the right ability set would be sure that there are guardrails in place to make sure that an obvious or maybe even precise battle of curiosity is averted — by making certain there are correct protocols in place,” Falcon stated. “It might seem primarily based on a few of the textual content messages that I’ve had the chance to evaluate that none of these provisions had been in place.”
In an emailed response to questions despatched by The Tyee this week, BC Housing stated it has not but verified the authenticity of the textual content messages and may’t touch upon the precise allegations. The Crown company stated it takes battle of curiosity very severely and a selected battle protocol was in place associated to Ramsay and Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society due to the connection between Ramsay and Abbott.
A number of former BC Housing workers The Tyee has beforehand interviewed, who additionally requested to stay nameless, stated that they had considerations about battle of curiosity once they labored on the Crown company. They stated Ramsay broke tips repeatedly when he mentioned funding selections and challenge contracts associated to Atira with them and different BC Housing employees, and that he repeatedly pressured senior employees to approve funding to Atira.
The Tyee despatched Ramsay a full copy of the textual content messages, however he didn’t reply to messages asking for a response and declined to remark when The Tyee reached him by telephone on Wednesday. Atira didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society is considered one of many non-profit organizations that operates housing in B.C., and the most important in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With a mission to finish violence towards ladies, the society runs non permanent housing for ladies fleeing violence, supportive housing buildings, daycares and providers like a women-only overdose prevention website within the Downtown Eastside. In 2020, it had complete revenues of $66.6 million, with 81 per cent coming from authorities sources.
Its for-profit subsidiary, Atira Property Administration Inc., operates 18 single-room occupancy motels. A lot of the SROs are run as supportive housing, and 11 of the buildings are owned by the province. The group additionally has a improvement wing, Atira Growth Society, and has constructed two new housing initiatives in Vancouver and one that’s underneath building in Port Coquitlam.
In keeping with BC Housing paperwork obtained by means of a freedom of data request, Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society is now the most important supportive housing supplier funded by BC Housing. Its funding has elevated at a extra fast tempo than different main supportive housing suppliers that do related work.
The textual content messages launched by the BC Liberals present that Ramsay repeatedly relayed data from Abbott and sometimes steered that supportive housing contracts ought to go to Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society.
“We doing a ladies’s solely in Surrey? That might be a very good one for Atira,” one message reads. One other goes on to complain that PHS, one other housing supplier, is being thought of to function an unspecified housing challenge over Atira.
The messages additionally seem to point out that Ramsay was sad on the progress of an exterior evaluate of Atira’s funds and governance that had been commissioned by BC Housing employees.
The Tyee has beforehand reported that the evaluate, by accounting agency BDO, was began in an try to unravel long-running issues with Atira’s funds that had been inflicting conflicts between BC Housing and Atira employees.
When BC Housing’s government group acquired a draft copy of the BDO report in 2018, which recognized critical monetary and governance issues at Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society, they advisable not funding new initiatives for Atira till the issues might be resolved.
However BC Housing’s board chair on the time, Cassie Doyle, overrode that call after assembly with the board chair of Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society. The board additionally determined to droop work on the BDO evaluate.
“The place is BDO at of their evaluate?” one of many textual content messages from Ramsay reads. “Perceive they’ve wasted months and never centered on money circulation points attributable to us not funding upkeep in earlier years as a result of then we thought it was manageable. What are subsequent steps?”
In one other message, Ramsay pushes for BC Housing to approve funding requested by Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society.
“I additionally perceive we didn’t approve the expenditure for previous unhealthy debt of roughly $200k… one other head scratcher given the oldsters that Atira serves. That is virtually $400k in bills that we have now not reimbursed and once more we scratch our heads about money circulation. I’ve sufficient points to cope with and don’t want this one to chunk me within the ass. It’s not adequate to say look ahead to BDO… we have now been saying that for over a yr now…. I get there are monetary administration and accounting points that BDO will help in resolving we simply don’t must compound them.”
In one other message, Ramsay refers to a selected finances merchandise for an Atira Girls’s Rescource Society program.
“Atira finances assembly as we speak… $6,000 per yr for meals at Sorella… 108 models,” one message reads, referring to Sorella Housing for Girls, a supportive housing buildings operated by AWRS within the Downtown Eastside.
“Requested for a rise to meals finances and Maria says we aren’t growing meals budgets. Examine the budgets for Sorella and different 12 websites?”
In keeping with former BC Housing workers The Tyee has interviewed, Ramsay initially adopted the battle of curiosity protocol that was put in place in 2010.
However through the years, Ramsay started asking employees about Atira Girls’s Useful resource Society initiatives. The feedback had been often made verbally in one-on-one discussions, the workers stated.
“I witnessed Shayne giving course to employees relating to properties that Atira was desirous about. I additionally witnessed Shayne questioning why different non-profits had gotten initiatives Atira had unsuccessfully utilized for. That occurred on multiple event,” one former worker stated.
In earlier responses to The Tyee, BC Housing has stated it had by no means acquired any complaints about Ramsay breaking battle of curiosity guidelines.
The staff who spoke to The Tyee stated they by no means reported their considerations about battle of curiosity to the board of BC Housing or the minister answerable for housing as a result of they feared shedding their jobs.