October 28th, 2020

Province sends ARCHES audit to police; LPS to investigate whether charges warranted


By Herald on July 24, 2020.

ARCHES employees pick up debris outside of the city's supervised consumption site in March after the provincial supervised consumption services review committee released its report earlier in the day. The findings of of a recently released audit have been handed over to LPS for investigation. Herald file photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Delon Shurtz
Lethbridge Herald
 dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com
The Lethbridge Police Service has begun investigating operations of the city’s supervised consumption site and the society that runs it, but it’s still too early to determine whether criminal charges will be laid in relation to nearly $2 million of unaccounted provincial funding.
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has turned over the findings of the audit to LPS for investigation on whether charges are warranted.
Kristen Saturley, strategic communications manager with the LPS, confirmed Thursday the economic crimes unit is conducting the investigation into ARCHES, the AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education Support Society. The investigation comes on the heels of the independent audit which points to allegations of undocumented or inappropriate expenses charged to the SCS, as well as to the Everyone Comes Together program by ARCHES directors.
The audit also alleges the misuse of credit cards for personal expenses, unapproved overtime billing, and a general lack of strong financial oversight by board members.
Saturley said investigators are unable to comment on the case because they are still in the early stages of the investigation.
“In order to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we aren’t in a position to comment further,” Saturley said in an email to The Herald.
The audit found more than $1.6 million in provincial funding unaccounted for because of missing documentation from 2017 and 2018. Much of problem stemmed from co-mingled accounts, making it impossible for ARCHES to identify which aspects of the organization were funded by provincial money — accounting for about 71 per cent of its funding — and those funded from other sources. The agreement with the province required ARCHES to keep a separate account and expense ledger for money coming from Alberta Health.
Several thousand dollars worth of staff gift cards and expensive trips, both abroad and within Canada, are among the questionable expenses originally charged to the SCS and ECT by ARCHES management. A $2,205 television was also acquired for the ARCHES board room without providing a receipt, and the organization’s petty cash uses were also not reconciled properly.
Referenced in the audit, one unnamed executive’s salary reached $343,000 in 2018/2019, a sharp increase from $87,121 recorded in 2017/2018. Of that $343,000, $72,000 was charged in overtime expenses for which the executive did not seek approval beforehand from the ARCHES board, as required under the organization’s own guidelines.
The funding agreement ARCHES has with the province only allows for $80,000 to be drawn for the executive’s salary, but the auditors were unable to determine, because of the co-mingling of accounts, how much of the executive’s salary was taken from provincial funding versus other sources of funding.
As a result of the audit’s findings, the province has pulled its funding for the consumption site.
Follow @DShurtzHerald on Twitter
With files by tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

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biff

must have had an earnest and magnificent accountant.

brewster65

I get a sense there wasn’t an accountant.

ewingbt

I hope it is a forensic investigation! And what about inflating the numbers of users of the ‘supervised drug consuming’ areas of the site . . . the false numbers that made Lethbridge infamous for being the busiest site in the world . . . they destroyed our reputation internationally so they could get the numbers higher for more funding!
Proof: After the Alberta government performed the audit in March of this year, they put in place oversight measures and an AHS member released numbers since March, that stated the average number of users per day was 130. Many of us have tried to state that there were maybe 150 – 200 maximum from our own observations . . . no-one listened!

That is a far cry from the 780 ARCHES was releasing to media or the 580 per day they told Council and the media. Someone has to answer for this! Our city was devastated, our parks, our neighbourhoods our downtown businesses and our international reputation!

How many died due to this gong-show of an operation! Teenagers and pregnant young woman were allowed to consume drugs at this site . . . who will they have to answer to for that!

Just wondering where did that big black car with the blacked out windows that Stacey used as her limo go, along with her biker security team?

I applaud this government for listening to the pleas of the citizens of Lethbridge to investigate this site and to cut funding! Now let’s get that money into effective treatment programs to end the addiction problems that plaque this city.

The cause of the addiction is what needs to be treated! Crime, street prostitutes, homelessness, public intoxication, urinating/defecating/indecent acts in public all point to the addiction, that is the cause of the addiction! The addition and the cause of the addiction is the common denominator that all the issues point to . . . Why are we avoiding going directly to the problem and dealing with it to get positive results?
Enabling addicts only amplifies the problems and dramatically increases the costs to society.

We have just seen the $14.5 million blown that the AB Gov gave to the site, and that doesn’t include the millions the site got from other donors, and didn’t see a decrease in fatal overdoses or the number of addicts, but increases!

Effective treatment programs, not enabling addicts is where the money needs to be put . . . can you imagine if the $25 million would have been put into effective treatment programs in Lethbridge 3 years ago where we would be . . . how many lives would have been saved and how many not ruined??

Let this bad experiment be a lesson! Almost 70% of fatal overdoses happen in BC and Alberta where the person resides . . . the site has no impact on them! Treatment would have saved many!

The use of safe injection sites in BC are proof they do not work . . . if they did, the numbers of addicts, fatal overdoses, homeless and crime would not be spreading like a cancer to all the areas of the province. The Okanagan valley, Shuswap, Prince George, the Island are all seeing tent cities pop-up from all of the addicts, since so many have taken over the Vancouver DTES!
BC’s new answer . . . more opioids . . . they are giving them free hydromorphone, an opioid . . . opioids were the reason there was a crisis that began in 2003 . . . you would think they would get it . . . treat addicts and stop making it so easy for them to be an addict!

Have we learned . . . time will soon tell!

brewster65

Ewingbt: You are making statements you can’t support or prove. You’re no better than ARCHES in this regard. Also, your use of the exclamation point is overused!!!!!

Kal Itea

The Government of Alberta provided the funding for the site and is not off the hook.

They have project officers who monitor programs where provincial monies are involved.

The role of a government monitor is to oversee the project and to make sure that the funding is well spent. Their duties include reviewing financial documentation, obtaining feedback from stakeholders in the community, interviewing clientele, staff, executive, and board members. This is usually done on a monthly basis.

A government funded project can get out of hand fast. In this case there was lots of noise for months and months.

Somebody was asleep at the switch.

Dennis Bremner

Yes Kal Itea, the Board of Directors for ARCHES who are tasked to ensure that monies are spent appropriately and that accounting is in accordance with the Government Funding…fell asleep at the switch!
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Well said ewingbt!
Although not part of the mandate I would sure like to know whom shuttled all these addicts and mentally challenged to Spearmans Drug Paradise. Were Police Chiefs of other Towns/cities involved? Beat cops? Do gooder groups who felt Bourques SCS was better then dealing with their own problems?

Kal Itea

Dennis Bremner.

The Board of Directors may also be held responsible, but the buck doesn’t stop there.

The ultimate responsibility is with the Province who are accountable to the taxpayer and the citizenry.

Poltical science.

Dennis Bremner

So are you suggesting that the NDP be investigated, for giving ARCHES 14million because the UCP was not elected until last summer!

Kal Itea

Dennis please,

End the p*ssing contest.

brewster65

Dennis: The UCP were not elected last summer. We NEVER hold elections in the summer. They were elected in October of 2018.

brewster65

Dennis: Why make claims you can’t support????? People being shuttled here?? If you don’t have any evidence, stop making nonsensical claims.

Dennis Bremner

Trying to figure out who you hold politically responsible for this fiasco, surely you are not suggesting its the UCP? They discovered this fiasco! UCP have made a tonne of mistakes but you can’t lay this one on them.