By Jensen, Randy on October 16, 2020.
Former ARCHES (AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education Support Society) managing director Jill Manning has publicly stated she acted as a whistleblower who provided government officials with crucial information for their audit and other investigations related to the organization.
In a statement posted to Facebook during an online discussion, which The Herald obtained a screen capture of before it was deleted, Manning responded to comments she had been forced to leave Lethbridge because of ongoing investigations into her role as a senior leader at ARCHES.
“Here’s the thing,” Manning stated. “I was the whistleblower to the government, and participated in both the audit and the criminal investigation – as a witness.”
She also stated she wasn’t currently under any investigation for her role with the organization, and had left Lethbridge because of ongoing negativity expressed toward her for trying, in her words, “to do good in this world.”
The Herald spoke to Manning briefly by phone on Thursday. She confirmed she made the statement on Facebook, but said she would have no further comment at this time.
The Herald has been unable to confirm through any official sources the merits of Manning’s claim to being a whistleblower, or the current state of any potential criminal investigations against any former ARCHES staff or personnel.
Back in March a team of auditors sanctioned by Alberta Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan entered the former supervised consumption site to undertake an investigation into allegations of financial irregularities at ARCHES. The Herald has never officially confirmed how the province came to know about these irregularities.
A leaked copy of an internal review of ARCHES obtained by The Herald in early July from local consultant Collaborative Strategies Business Consulting and Empowerment Solutions to Luan’s office following the audit painted a picture of a dysfunctional workplace setting, with some employees stating the atmosphere at the organization was “toxic” and “unhealthy.” Some of the organization’s managers further stated they felt like they were “constantly drowning” due to a general lack of direction in the organization.
Luan announced on July 15 the provincial government would be pulling all funding from ARCHES due to what he called a disturbing misappropriation of funds for expensive trips, staff gift cards, and other costly and unwarranted expenses. The audit was also unable to account for $1.6 million in provincial funds provided to the organization, possibly due, it said, to poor accounting practices and an overall lack of strong financial oversight by ARCHES board members.
The matter has since been referred to Lethbridge Police Service for further investigation.
In early August ARCHES announced it would be closing its SCS site and ending all its other community services. The former supervised consumption site closed for the final time on Aug. 31.