District of Sechelt has filed a notice of claim against City of Nanaimo chief financial officer Victor Mema over unapproved personal expenses it says were charged to district’s corporate credit card.
Mema, however, denies he owes anything and said he thinks this is “pure political games and racism and that’s all.”
The municipality is seeking $9,985 in small claims court, according to the notice filed Sept. 15.
It claims that after Mema resigned in 2015, it came to the district’s attention that Mema had charged a significant number of items to the district credit card without proper approval from his supervisor and that many of those unapproved items were determined as personal in nature, not relating to legitimate district business, such as flights and accommodation, car insurance, cash advances, cellphone and banking charges. The total amounted to $36,212, of which Mema paid $4,381 towards credit card charges and the district paid the entire remaining balance.
The district claims Mema agreed certain items, totalling $7,739 and paid for by the district, were personal items and not properly incurred on the district’s credit card, but it says a further $170 not admitted by Mema, was charged by the credit card issuer as service fees and interest on cash advances withdrawn for the defendant’s personal use and $1,835 was charged to the credit card for purchases made in Edmonton, Alta., from vendors like Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Edmonton Jaguar.
“These amounts bear no possible relation to district business and constitute personal expenditures of the defendant which must be repaid to the district,” the notice states.
Mema told the News Bulletin he has not been served, but said it’s inaccurate he owes any money to the district. Sechelt is aware he has a counter claim against them “for tens of thousands of dollars.”
“I just concluded a human rights complaint with Sechelt and I think this is their way of a smear campaign so we’ll just work our way through it,” he said.
In an e-mail, city chief administrative officer Tracy Samra said that the city was aware of a dispute between Mema and Sechelt at the time of his hire and afterwards.
“I respect the previous city manager’s decision to hire him and support him,” she said. “Mr. Mema has proven to be an exceptional CFO whose contributions to our community have recently been recognized by [Union of B.C. Municipalities].”
Mayor Bill McKay, also aware of the notice of claim, said he doesn’t believe it’s something he can comment on.
“They filed a claim, that’s all. That doesn’t prove guilt, it’s got to be dealt with through the courts,” McKay said. “Having been on the receiving end of this, I really want to just let this go through the court process.”
Mema was chief financial officer at Sechelt. He began as director of finance for the City of Nanaimo in September 2015.
The defendant is required to reply to the notice within 14 days from being served, unless the defendant settles the claim directly with the claimant, according to the notice of claim.