Greater Victoria Public Library chair defends former CEO’s spending

Expenses charged by Barry Holmes being closely scrutinized

As the City of Windsor continues to seek answers about questionable credit card expenses by its former library CEO, Victoria’s public library staff are combing through receipts and records here.

Before taking the job in Windsor, Barry Holmes was CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library between Sept. 1, 2006 and March 16, 2010.

Last week, other media reported that $131,606 in expenses was racked up on Holmes’ corporate credit card during his three-and-a-half years in the Victoria job.

The news prompted the GVPL to launch a meticulous review of receipts from that time.

They include three restaurant bills over $200 and 11 higher than $100. There is one $500 expense for skin-care products. Also, there are $682 in late-payment charges.

“We’ve been digging,” said library board chair Karel Roessingh. “We’re still going through them – it’s a very long list.”

Roessingh admits some of the expenses appear surprising, but he defends Holmes.

“I am very confident in saying these were library-related expenses,” he said.

The body lotion expense, for instance, was spent to buy lip balm imprinted with the library logo, used as a promotion for teens.

The whole library system only had two credit cards. Both were used by many people for all number of expenses, ranging from conferences to software, Roessingh said.

Halfway through Holmes’ employment, the library implemented a new, more strict credit-card policy. The “vast majority” of the expenses reported by media were made before the new rules, Roessingh said.

Today, he said, the board is confident it has “good, careful spending.”

“I see every expense,” he added. Plus, there are definite criteria on what expenses are reasonable, and there is a no-alcohol policy.

Holmes’ departure from the GVPL was “by mutual consent of the board,” Roessingh said. “His performance was not in question.”

Rather, there was a difference in opinion over the direction of the library.

Holmes has not been in touch with the GVPL since the debate over his expenses was sparked last week.

“Nobody knows where he is,” Roessingh said.

The Windsor Star reported Holmes went on sick leave when expense questions started to arise last spring and never returned. Holmes’ lawyer said his character had been “sullied beyond repair.”

rholmen@vicnews.com