Surrey MLA Amrik Virk says he could have done ‘better job’ on Kwantlen board

CASSIDY OLIVER / THE PROVINCE ,

Surrey-Tynehead MLA Amrik Virk previously sat on Kwantlen’s board of directors.

SURREY — A series of emails between former members of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s board of governors and one of the school’s past presidents challenges the conclusions of a government report that ruled the board was unaware of specific details of an employee contract that deliberately broke executive compensation guidelines.

The emails, which were tabled by the opposition in the house Monday, show Amrik Virk, a former vice-chair of the board and the current minister of advanced education, and other past board members were involved in a detailed back-and-forth discussion with the school’s then president relating to an employment contract for Anne Lavack, the school’s former vice-president.

The Lavack contract was one of two highlighted in a scathing 24-page government report released last summer that concluded the university twice violated disclosure requirements by failing to properly report the $50,000 “pre-employment contracts” it awarded to senior executives: one to Lavack in 2011, the other to the university’s current president Alan Davis in 2012.

But while the report, which was authored by assistant deputy minister Rob Mingay, found evidence that the board was aware of the Davis pre-employment contract, it concluded the board had no knowledge of the $50,000 pre-employment contract that was eventually awarded to Lavack, which pushed her $170, 000 salary past the provincial cap.

On Monday, the opposition zeroed in on the previously undisclosed emails during question period, and asked Virk whether or not he disclosed the email chain to Mingay during his investigation. Those included in the email thread were former KPU president David Atkinson, board chair GordSchoberg and Virk, who was an RCMP officer at the time.

The emails, which were sent between April 10-12 of 2011, include mention of a $100,000 for “removal expenses,” the remainder of which would be paid out “as a lump-sum payment (signing bonus), a $20,000 research allowance and a “$100-$150K” housing loan.

The $100,000 appears to have later been broken down as a “$50K consulting fee” and a “50K moving fee” in the contract signed by Lavack on April 18, 2011, a copy of which was also tabled by the NDP on Monday. During the back and forth, Virk, who uses his then RCMP email account, wrote “All looks well and is line with our collective thoughts and well within industry standards.”

Virk responded to repeated questions about whether he disclosed the emails during the investigation by saying he provided all the information that was asked of him. However, in a followup statement to The Province, Virk clarified that he had not provided the emails to Mingay.

“I shared everything to the best of my ability with Mr. Mingay,” he said in the statement. “These emails are from an old account that I haven’t had access to since I retired from the RCMP. Now that I have these documents, I will forward them to Mr. Mingay for his review.”

During a scrum with reporters in Victoria, Virk also admitted that he could have done a “better job” during his role as vice-chair of the board, and also acknowledged that the employment contracts at the university were not being reported properly. He said the board dealt with matters at the university to the best of their ability and knowledge.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong has asked Mingay to review the latest documents to determine whether his conclusions should be revised, a government spokesperson said Monday.