Axe falls on Portland Hotel Society leadership

WATCH: Managers of the Portland Hotel Society were forced out today after the government issued an ultimatum. Brian Coxford reports.

The leadership of Portland Hotel Society, which co-operates Insite and runs a host of other services in the Downtown Eastside, are resigning.

Executive Director Mark Townsend, along with three other senior managers including his wife Liz Evans, are stepping down from the expansive non-profit society effective April 1.

Global News first reported on Monday that Townsend and several members of the board were issued an ultimatum by the government to leave if PHS was to avoid receivership.

Townsend confirmed to Global News today that was the case, adding the current board has been given the list of people they will be replaced by at the society’s next Annual General Meeting.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Government to act on Portland Hotel Society soon

In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, PHS received nearly $21 million in government funding through contracts with Vancouver Coastal Health, BC Housing, and other groups. In filings to the Canada Revenue Agency, they said $15.3 million was spent on employees, with management and administration expenses of $2.8 million. They also spent $358,724 on travel and vehicle expenses.

The group being brought to create a new management structure has deep ties to Vancouver Coastal Health, including former CEO Ida Goodreau, current board member Sandra Heath, and Chief Medical Officer Patty Daly. BC Housings VP of Operations Craig Crawford will also be appointed to the board.

The independent audit of PHS began last November, after BC Housing noticed a number of irregularities. According to people with knowledge of the audit, issues included possible discrepancies with holiday pay, whether certain expensed trips – including ones to Disneyland and a European canal cruise – were for business purposes, and whether contracts were awarded at arms length.

Story continues below advertisement

Townsend hasn’t specifically addressed the charges, but has said all money given by government agencies has gone directly into services.

Health Minister Terry Lake says the society’s services will continue uninterrupted.

“The services they provide are critical for a very vulnerable population…the transition will ensure that none of those services are left wanting, that we will continue to support that vulnerable population,” he said at a press conference today.

“When we’re using taxpayer money to support those services, we need to make sure they’re being used appropriately…we’re transitioning to a different system to ensure all of that money goes to people whose needs that need to be net. We can’t criticize the great work that has gone on in the DTES supporting that population. But it’s very important for British Columbians to know that all of that money is being used appropriately.”

Sponsored content