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Jenny Kwan vows to pay back $34,000, taking leave of absence

Jenny Kwan makes an emotional address to the media (March 21/14)

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The BC NDP’s housing critic says she will pay back more than $34,000 spent by the Portland Hotel Society for trips for her and her former husband.

The society provides services in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In an emotional media address, Jenny Kwan says she trusted her spouse paid for the trips himself.

Robert Dan Small was an executive with the Portland Hotel Society until yesterday, when the government fired four managers and appointed an interim board after scathing audits detailed the society spent thousands of dollars on lavish trips, hotels and restaurant meals.

“It is my understanding that my ex-husband travelled to Europe to further his work for the Portland Hotel Society and while he was there, he conducted research, was a presenter and attended conferences,” says Kwan.

Kwan says she trusted Small and tried unsuccessfully to reach him yesterday for an explanation but communication between the divorcing couple has been difficult. “He brought me along and as I stated yesterday, I was reassured by my ex-spouse that he paid for all the family portion of the travel associated with the society.”

“I had no idea what the amounts were. He reassured me that the payments were made by him and I accepted that. In a relationship there are elements of trust,” explained Kwan.

“I can’t tell you how upsetting this is to me and how truly sorry I am that this has occurred,” said a tearful Kwan, speaking to the media today.

She says she learned about the cost of the trips yesterday and has now taken a leave of absence for an undetermined amount of time to be with her two children.

Kwan says she is disturbed that her family played a part in money coming from a non-profit society that is supposed to help needy people that she has been advocating for during her 17 years in politics.

“I am taking a leave of absence so that I can be with my children. It means that I am still the MLA and I am expecting to return.”

A breakdown of the expenses Kwan believes she owes:

$8,323.22 – travel to UK
$3,175.12 – travel to Bristol
$5,950.60 – flights
$4,142.68 – Vienna
$2,694.95 – Disney hotel upgrade

Meanwhile, OMNI-TV political analyst Kim Emerson says the party has no choice but to act quickly.

“MLAs are held to a little higher standard than the general public. She had an obligation as an NDP MLA and a critic to be asking some extra questions, even of her spouse,” he says.

Emerson says if the NDP wants to be taken credibly, it will probably have to replace her as housing critic.