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Library board confident expenses of former CEO can be justified

Nov 28 2012
Ex-GVPL CEO Barry Holmes: $144,000 salary per year, $43,000 in severance. 

Ex-GVPL CEO Barry Holmes: $144,000 salary per year, $43,000 in severance.

Photograph by: Dan Janisse, Windsor Star , Times Colonist

The board of the Greater Victoria Public Library is confident that expenses incurred by former CEO Barry Holmes are legitimate and have directed staff to go through receipts to prove its point.

The board has been feeling heat since credit-card statements in the name of Barry Holmes, GVPL CEO from Sept. 5, 2006, to March 19, 2010, were made public. The expenses, totalling $131,606, included groceries, purchases from big box stores like Wal-Mart and Future Shop, as well as music downloads from HMV and iTunes.

The revelations followed a similar investigation by the Windsor Star into $67,000 in expenses incurred by Holmes, who served as CEO of the Windsor Public Library for two years after he left Victoria.

The public needs a clearer idea of what purchases Holmes claimed as expenses, said board chairman Karel Roessingh on Tuesday following a regular board meeting.

"We're confident we'll be able to justify those expenses," he said. "We may not go through every single item - but [we'll review] any item that might raise a question ... that process has already begun."

The impression that the CEO spent this money himself is "completely false," Roessingh said.

"There was a card that was passed around among staff for library expenses, so many of these expenses were not made by the CEO."

For the first time, Roessingh commented on specific purchases raised in earlier media reports: The $500 purchase from Surf to Serf, a Vancouver manufacturer of hemp-based body products, was not for body cream but for lip balm that was given to teens as a promotional item, he said.

"We want to explain the whole darn thing," he said. "We want to be open, we want to be accountable, we want to be completely transparent."

From September 2006 to February 2009, a MasterCard in Holmes's name was passed around to various people. While Roessingh said the board now has good procedures, he acknowledged that passing a credit card around "was a process that didn't work very well."

Now individuals have their own cards and they are responsible for their own expenditures.

The fact the statements had check marks and initials on them prove there was oversight at the time, Roessingh said, "and we're going over them again, just to make sure those were legitimate expenses.

"We're pretty sure we can account for the whole works. Mr. Holmes didn't leave with stuff that belonged to the library."

The library changed its policy on credit-card use in February 2009 to improve how it controls expenses, he said.

Holmes was paid an annual salary of $144,000 plus expenses. Upon departure, which was by mutual agreement with the board, he collected severance of $43,000.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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