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Unrepentant college Prexy Stef Forsyth's message to taxpayers: I'm alright, Jack

After two days of being incommunicado, Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth surfaced Friday in a blitz of phone interviews with Winnipeg television, radio and newspaper reporters.

She launched a charm offensive to bury the taint of Bev Oda (she of the $16 orange juice) that hangs over her after the Canadian Taxpayers Association revealed that Forsyth had claimed $78,000 in expenses in her first 16 months on the job. That's an average of just under $5000 a month on top of her $261,000 salary.

Forsyth's message? She's entitled to her entitlements and everything she claimed was a proper expense, even the super-special high-end $205 golf shoes. But because you poopy-heads made such a big deal of it, she was going to repay the money for the golf shoes. Satisfied?

Richard Lennon, chairman of the Red River College Board of Governors, joined Forsyth's atonement parade to say the college would launch a whitewash by the end of the month, but he had already determined "her expenses are largely consistent with her contract." Given that all her expenses, including the golf shoes, her 2011 drivers licence, and car washes were rubberstamped by the Board, its highly unlikely they will find themselves to have been negligent.

Nevertheless, he promised a "review".

May we suggest he start with the $107 Forsyth billed the public for groceries. You see, she invited NDP cabinet minister Kerri Irwin-Ross for a home-cooked meal.

Apparently $261,000 a year isn't enough to cover the high cost of food for a quiet dinner at home, so Forsyth tapped the public purse to help her out.

Now, its our understanding that Irwin-Ross has an office provided and paid for by the Manitoba taxpayer. And Stephanie Forsyth has an office. And official meetings are supposed to be held in either of these respective offices. That's the whole idea to give them offices.

So why were they having a tete-a-tete at Forsyth's home in the first place?

We recall that Forsyth's other NDP cabinet girlfriend, Higher Ed Minister Erin Selby, said the only place she could meet with and talk business with Stephanie Forsyth was at a Winnipeg Jets hockey game, with free tickets provided by Forsyth. At least, it was until they got caught. (Red River spent $24,000 on Jets seasons tickets.)

But why was Forsyth meeting with Irwin-Ross in her home instead of during regular business hours in either of their offices? Since she filed an expense claim for having supper on official business, there should be a memo to the file to explain what was discussed, how long the supper lasted, what was pitched, what was promised, things like that. 

And, given that we paid for the food, we're entitled to know what was served.

Even though the bill was lost and could not be produced for the CTF, Forsyth must remember what she ate. And who was present at this unusual business meeting that we paid for. Was it only her and Kerri? Or did Stephanie Forsyth's lesbian spouse join them? Are we now paying her freight as well? The last we heard, Kerri Irwin-Ross was divorcing her husband. Did she bring an escort?

Who made the meal? Presumably, Stephanie Forsyth. But wouldn't it be funny if she had a, er, volunteer from the culinary services course at Red River doing the cooking? Maybe the Board of Governors could ask. For the record.

You see, just as Forsyth had a message for the taxpayers, we have a message for her: WE DON'T TRUST YOU.

Let's look at some of Forsyth's other expenses, which the Board Chairman has approved as perfectly acceptable.

Um. Did he include the flowers sent to the new president of the British Columbia college she worked at before coming to Red River? The card, we're told, was from Stephanie and her partner Deb with no mention of Red River College.

Forsyth said people should stop making such a big deal about her BMW for which Red River pays half the cost of maintenance. Its a 2007 model, 328 xi sedan, she bought used. (Autotrader is advertising this $35,000 car for $18,850.) Of course, you can't blame people for being suspicious when they see a couple of bills (June and October, 2011) for replacing and balancing 4 tires, each bill made out to Deb, with Deb crossed out and replaced with Stephanie Forsyth. Deb is Deborah Scarborough, Forsyth's girlfriend, and obviously somebody realized that Deb doesn't get her bills reimbursed by the college but her spouse does.

Her golf shoes? She hurt her widdle foot and needs special shoes. She was warned somewhere that sneakers were not allowed. She doesn't even golf, she said, but she has to make an appearance for the sake of the college. Maybe she was seduced by the advertising:

"Treat your feet to some pampering with the Ecco Ladies Casual Cool Golf Shoes; a truly remarkable construction that works to give you maximum comfort when on the golf course."

What really burns Forsyth is that the CTF was tipped to her extravagance by an inside college source.

Memo to Stephanie Forsyth: it's called a whistleblower.

Forsyth said she suspects the tip was pushback for all the changes she's undertaken at the college. We don't think she's referring to the $11 million deficit she's run up since becoming president and CEO of the college. And we're not talking about the four unisex bathrooms for boys, girls, and transsexuals who can be either or both at once.

Some of the reporters Friday asked about some of those changes, namely the firing of longtime Winnipeg adminstrators and their replacement by British Columbia colleagues of Forsyth.

Oh, that, she said. Coincidence.

One of the B.C. implants is Diane Ready, Red River's new Chief Financial Officer. She just happens to sit on the board of Outwords magazine (formerly Swerve, the magazine with the slogan "we're here and we're queer) with Debbie Scarborough.

Scarborough was hired by Red River as an instructor, although Forsyth says she's not employed in that capacity this year. Her online profile still says she is a college instructor, but she has another job---with the province. Now, there's a surprise.

She's a Flood Recovery Team Coordinator, Psychosocial at Manitoba Health, Interlake Regional Health Authority.

Erin Selby and the Red River Board of Governors were warned about Stephanie Forsyth's loosey-goosey attitude towards college policy last year. Forsyth did a favour for her friend Margo Goodhand, then editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, by ordering her minions to kill a talk show on the college-sponsored radio station after Goodhand complained that the show was making her and her reporters upset by its criticism. 

The gesture backfired bigtime when the show's supporters did some digging and discovered that Red River was controlling the station through an illegal and secret committee that reported to Forsyth. Once the CRTC caught wind of the scam, Forsyth scrapped funding for the station, killing it, and saddling Red River college with tens of thousands of dollars in the station's debt.

When listeners complained about violations of the college's ethics policy (a vice-president was lying to them about the talk show cancellation) Forsyth (and her Jets watching friend Selby) ignored them. Ethics, it appears, are not high on Forsyth's list of priorities.

But remember, this summer when you're working hard in your office and Stephanie Forsyth is lacing up her new golf shoes, or shopping for groceries to feed her MLA friends, or choosing which friends to take to see the Winnipeg Jets, or the Blue Bombers, or the ballet, she's doing it for you.

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