Emails bring new look at Virk’s role in KPU pay

 

The B.C. government will revisit an internal investigation into questions about executive compensation at Kwantlen Polytechnic University after new emails show B.C.’s advanced education minister participated in a plan to break provincial pay limits while on the school’s board three years ago. 

Minister Amrik Virk said Monday that emails tabled by the provincial NDP in the legislature had “refreshed” his memory about a questionable compensation package for a university vice-president in 2011. 

The emails contradict findings of a government report earlier this year that concluded Virk and other Kwantlen board members at the time had no knowledge of hidden preemployment deals or other perks and benefits that broke government compensation rules. 

Virk said the emails “refreshed my memory” about the contract, and he would refer the information back to assistant deputy minister Rob Mingay, who had conducted the earlier report. 

Finance Minister Mike de Jong asked Mingay to review the new information on Monday to determine if the conclusions in his June report need to be changed, said a spokesperson. 

The Opposition NDP called on Virk to resign. 

In the emails, Virk, then an RCMP officer and Kwantlen board member, reviewed the employment offer details for Kwantlen vice-president Anne Lavack and suggested a $20,000 annual research allowance was a good way to get around the government pay caps for post-secondary executives. 

“Given the low pay level of a VPA at Kwantlen and the difficulty in drawing candidates within the current pay scale, the research leave is one way to ‘top’ off the pay level,” Virk wrote in an April 11, 2011 email. 

Lavack’s compensation exceeded government caps, after her $170,000 annual salary was combined with perks including $50,000 for moving expenses, the $20,000 research allowance and a “pre-employment” consulting contract worth $50,000. 

The contract was signed by then Kwantlen president David Atkinson. 

“My review did not reveal information to suggest that the then Board of Governors was aware of the Lavack offer letter of employment or preemployment contract,” Mingay wrote in his June 17 report. 

Virk said he provided Mingay information to “the best of my recollections,” but was unable to access his old RCMP email account. He had resigned from the Mounties when elected in 2013. 

“I provided him with the information I had at hand to the best of my ability,” said Virk. 

NDP leader John Horgan accused Virk of withholding information and misleading the legislature with previous comments that he knew little of the deal. 

“Clearly, these new emails put the lie to that initial position by Mr. Virk as well as, unfortunately, the good work of Rob Mingay,” said Horgan. 

The earlier government report into Kwantlen contracts had also flagged a similar $50,000 pre-employment contract for incoming president Alan Davis in 2012. Davis has since promised to review the concerns. 

– Rob Shaw is a reporter with the Vancouver Sun.

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