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Ex-CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library racked up $131,606 on library credit card

Nov 24 2012
Barry Holmes's purchases ranged from body cream to music downloads during his four years at Greater Victoria Public Library. 

Barry Holmes's purchases ranged from body cream to music downloads during his four years at Greater Victoria Public Library.

Photograph by: Dan Janisse, Windsor Star , Times Colonist

A former chief executive officer of the Greater Victoria Public Library racked up $131,606 on his corporate Mastercard in less that four years, on purchases that included $500 for hemp-based body cream, multiple orders of groceries and downloads from iTunes and HMV.

Barry Holmes served as CEO of the library from Sept. 5, 2006 to March 19, 2010 and received $144,147 annually in pay, plus expenses. Upon resigning from Victoria, Holmes was handed $43,046.64 in severance.

After leaving the Victoria library, he became CEO of the Windsor Public Library in Ontario.

In less than two years with Windsor, Holmes charged more than $67,000 - including $2,000 for antiques - on his corporate credit card.

He arranged for the library board chairman of the day, a Windsor councillor named Al Maghnieh, to get a corporate credit card as well.

Maghnieh spent $8,000 over four months, with he and Holmes signing off on each other's credit card expenses. Windsor council got wind of Maghnieh's spending and scolded him for the "reckless" use of a Windsor Public Library credit card. The city docked Maghnieh's salary for 90 days, the maximum punishment allowed under the Ontario Municipal Act.

While Maghnieh faced irate peers on Windsor council, Holmes called in sick for several weeks. He never returned to work, said Windsor Star reporter Doug Schmidt.

Holmes's current whereabouts are not known.

Windsor Coun. Hilary Payne took over library operations after Maghnieh and Holmes left. In September, Payne spoke out about the misuse of credit cards by the two men, but refused to comment this week because Holmes has threatened legal action.

The scandal was big news in Windsor, mainly because of Maghnieh's position on council.

Holmes, meanwhile, "slipped under the radar," said Schmidt.

"He called in sick repeatedly ... and finally tendered his resignation, saying he'd been 'constructively dismissed,' " Schmidt said.

It was similar in Victoria, where Holmes was "terminated without cause."

Paul Gerrard, Victoria library board chairman at the time, signed off on Holmes's credit card bills.

"There was nothing that jumped out at me as far as anything unusual about his credit card expenses," Ger-rard said last week.

The Greater Victoria Public Library says it has reviewed its expenses policy since Holmes left.

"We have implemented increased rigour around our procedures related to purchasing and employee expenses," said Alyssa Polinsky, the library's communications manager.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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