The Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation’s new chief executive officer had to pay back $29,000 in personal expenses charged to a government credit card while working as chief of staff to a former Alberta MLA in 2004.
Sasha Angus, who was announced Wednesday as NEDC’s new leader, was the top aide to economic and development minister Mark Norris for more than three years.
When Norris lost his seat in 2004, both he and Angus were out of work. Norris was Alberta’s only cabinet minister defeated in Alberta’s 2004 election.
Expenses on the government credit card included a night with friends in Las Vegas and a personal plane ticket.
In an interview with the News Bulletin, Angus said it was policy to put personal expenses on public credit cards and pay them back.
“It was government policy at the time and I would highlight what my expenses were and then the department would tell me what I owed and I would pay it back,” said Angus. “It was paid back in full prior to leaving government and it’s been something that was policy of the day and something I regret. It was a mistake I don’t ever see happening again.”
As CEO of the NEDC, Angus will be responsible for $1.5 million in taxpayer money to run the office charged with improving Nanaimo’s tourism and economic development sectors. He will be paid $110,000 a year and will also be issued a corporate credit card.
He replaces Susan Cudahy, NEDC’s first CEO. She left in the spring after six months under a cloud of controversy after engaging a Toronto agency to develop the NEDC website.
A.J. Hustins, chairman of the NEDC board, said the hiring committee was aware of the credit card incident and interviewed Angus on the subject.
“Obviously we’re very well aware of that. It was policy at the time that employees had their personal expenses on there and were reimbursed,” said Hustins. “He understood that was a mistake in how it was all handled and he admits that. That actually changed policy in how Alberta and B.C. agencies did their audits and how they manage their expenses. Even the NEDC follows the protocol of the new expense schedules.”
Hustins noted the issue originally came to light during an Alberta election campaign, and that fact-checking by the NEDC board revealed Angus remained the best candidate for the CEO position.
“There was a bit of politicking going on and a minister was trying to get re-elected and Sasha took the bullet for it,” said Hustins.
Mayor and council are also aware of the issue.
Despite the misstep, Hustins said Angus has a proven track record in economic development and remains the best candidate to lead Nanaimo’s tourism and economic office.
Angus has spent the last five years at the Greater Victoria Development Agency where he hosted more than 100 trade delegations, wrote and executed an economic development strategy and produced strong results for the Victoria area.
“We’re very confident in our selection,” said Hustins. “He blew the other candidates out of the water in economic development.”
Angus begins his new position with NEDC on Sept. 4.