The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Red River Rip. The New Aristocrats socialize and you pay.

In  August, 2011, six people sat down to a home-cooked meal at the residence of Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth.

You paid for the food.  But you weren't invited.

That's because you're a troll and Forsyth and her guests are the New Aristocrats.  

You are expected to cover the cost of their socializing.  And like it.  And STFU.

Forsyth, during her Golf Shoe phone blitz on Friday, declared that people should be grateful to her for hosting a dinner party at home.  After all, she sniffed, she could have gone to a restaurant.  See, she actually saved you money.

This is the mind-set of the New Aristocracy.  The idea that the public shouldn't cover the cost of a restaurant get-together either didn't even rate a thought.  To people of her ilk the fact that her evenings out are paid for by the hoi polloi is a given and not up for debate.

We repeat ourselves: Stephanie Forsyth has an office. Her guest at dinner was NDP cabinet minister Kerri Irwin-Ross. She has an office. Business is conducted during business hours and could, and should, be conducted in either business office. Everything else is socializing. It's something you do on your own time and at your own expense.

A bus driver hosting a barbeque at which he discusses bus routes with a city councillor can't go running to Winnipeg Transit and get his steaks and weenies paid for.  

A librarian having a pizza night with friends who work for the Winnipeg Foundation can't go to the City of Winnipeg to get repaid the price of a few slices because she talked about the latest trends in libraries and pitched a donation.

But when the New Aristocrats want to have dinner at home they call it 'business' and get the students of Red River and the taxpayer to subsidize their chowdown.

Forsyth is defended by people like Margo Goodhand, the former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press.  

She wrote a column last week decrying the trolls---her word---who fail to aggrandize the self-proclaimed visionaries in this town.  Sure,these people spend multi-millions of your money on their pet projects, but they do it for you.  You're just too limited to see the big picture, too concentrated on pinching pennies when you should be celebrating the glory of the New Aristocrats.

Of course Goodhand is a closet friend of Stephanie Forsyth's.  When Goodhand wanted a talk show killed on the radio station hosted by Red River College, she  made a clandestine phone call to Forsyth and it was done. (Unfortunately, so was the entire radio station once the CRTC discovered it was being run illegally by Forsyth in violation of broadcasting regulations.)

In fact, we wonder if Goodhand was the beneficiary of any of Forsyth's socializing under the guise of business. We can't find out because the Red River College President is refusing to release the details of the $78,000 in expenses she piled up in her first 16 months on the job.

Too much paperwork, and people don't want that, she said Friday.

The Board of Governors promised a whitewash review of her expenses.  "Whitewash" because Board chairman Richard Lennon outright said Friday that her expenses were within college guidelines even without looking at them item by item.

Of course, we can't trust the Board.  

Lennon said he personally approved the expense of $50 for Forsyth's 2011 driver's licence, which even she admitted was improperly claimed.  And he approved reimbursing her for $205 golf shoes which Education Minister Erin Selby called "an inappropriate expense."

And he approved repaying Stephanie Forsyth $2 for parking.  Yes, that's right. She gets paid more than a quarter of a million dollars a year, charges almost $5000 a month for expenses, and expected to be paid back for spending $2 on parking.

So whitewash it will be.

Which brings us back to the dinner party at Stephanie Forsyth's house.

On Aug. 3, somebody spent $107 at Superstore buying food for the homecooked meal for NDP Housing Minister Kerri Irwin-Ross and unknown others.  On Sept. 26, Forsyth submitted an expense claim for reimbursement of the $107.  The receipt for the food, she noted, was lost.

Uh oh.

You see, Richard Lennon stated Friday when defending Forsyth's extravagances, that he was satisfied she had followed college guidelines on her $78,000 in expenses.  

Not so fast.

You guessed it.  We looked up the college policy and reimbursing expenses which they call Best Practices guidelines.  

The policy says that all claims must be accompanied by receipts. And claims have to be filed within five days.

Words have meaning.  "Must" is defined by Webster's as compulsion, obligation or necessity.

In the words of the little people---no receipt, no repayment.  Not to mention she filed 54 days later.  

And yet, Richard Lennon broke the rules for Stephanie Forsyth.  She got paid.

Then there's the requirement that the claimant file reports on what was discussed at the alleged business meeting and the persons present.  

That means there should be no problem for Richard Lennon to release those details about the Forsyth dinner party---unless these reports were not filed.  You don't think....?

We're interested in who got to eat on our dime.  There was Stephanie Forsyth and Kerri Irwin-Ross, whose portfolio doesn't appear to cover Red River College.  We're guessing Forsyth's girlfriend Deborah Scarborough was at the table, after all she lives there.  So now we're paying for the meals of the college president and her 'spouse'.  Kerri Irwin-Ross may have had an escort, who ate at our expense.  And two mystery guests. 

Don't you think we deserve at least the names of who we're feeding?

Oh, and there's still the question of who prepared the meal.  Stephanie Forsyth in an apron? Or ...  Let's say a little birdie has been singing even before spring has sprung.

Question of the Day:  Why did CTV not report on the Forsyth spending scandal?  Not a word on Thursday when the story broke, and on Friday when she hit the phone to deflect the heat. Curious.

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