Ex-Chief Electoral Officer takes wife to Kenya on taxpayers’ tab

(Victoria, 28 August 2012) – British Columbians paid thousands of dollars for the former head of Elections BC, to take his wife on a business trip to Africa and for him to later stay at an exclusive private club in Washington, D.C. and an Arizona resort.

Records obtained by IntegrityBC via a freedom of information request also show Craig James – who has since been appointed clerk of British Columbia’s legislature – spent two-and-a-half times more on travel in 2010 than Harry Neufeld his predecessor at Elections BC did in the year prior.

James’s $43,295 bill for travel expenses between August 25th and December 12th, 2010 followed the introduction of new travel entitlements that he authorized for himself and senior employees at the government agency.

The entitlements, which have since been rescinded by his successor, included the splitting of “any air fare (sic) up to and including business class air fare, with another person,” as well as authorizing business class airfare for flights with a “cumulative” flight time of more than four hours.

In September 2010, James was accompanied by his wife on a KLM flight to Nairobi, Kenya where he attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. The two business class seats cost taxpayers $14,523.

According to the records obtained by Integrity BC, James justified the cost for his wife to accompany him to Kenya by claiming that the fare to Nairobi for two individuals was “the result of a group rate obtained by booking through a travel agent” and was less than a comparable single fare on Air Canada, even though James and his wife didn’t fly Air Canada.

James flew business class to Ottawa on October 31st, 2010 returning the next day at a cost of $4,642, not including the $1,705 rebate from the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation. Only months earlier Harry Neufeld had flown to Ottawa for $1,274. In addition to a second trip to Ottawa in November, James also flew business class on trips across North America.

When travelling for Elections BC, James stayed at some of the most exclusive and expensive resorts in the U.S. and Canada, including: Washington, D.C.’s Cosmos Club and the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix.

Worth Magazine ranked the Cosmos Club as the fourth best private club in the United States and the website Hotels for the Rich and Famous notes that the Biltmore is: “a restful oasis of 39 acres covered with lush gardens, glistening swimming pools, and Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced architecture.”

James charged taxpayers $399 plus taxes and resort fees per night for his two nights at the Biltmore and $298 plus taxes per night for his three nights at the Cosmos Club. This compares to nightly rates of $149 at the Westin Phoenix Downtown and $155 at the historic Dupont Circle Churchill Hotel in Washington, D.C.

One week after he assumed the Chief Electoral Officer post in September, 2011 Keith Archer rescinded the travel entitlements that James had introduced at Elections BC.

IntegrityBC has posted all related documents obtained through its freedom of information request on its website at:

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IntegrityBC is a non-partisan voice championing accountability and integrity in BC politics. By empowering British Columbians, IntegrityBC hopes to changes politics in BC and allow citizens to regain trust in our government.

For more information:

Dermod Travis

Executive Director, IntegrityBC

250-590-5126

Watch the CTV coverage of this news release:

To see a copy of the original documents follow these links:

Travel Policies – original and rescinded

Travel Authorization Summary Sheets

Trip to Nairobi Documents

Trip to Ottawa Comparison

Cosmos and Biltmore hotel bills

Fact Sheet on Government Travel Policy

Price Comparison Screenshots

ElectionsBC FOI Letter