Surrey-Tynehead MLA Amrik Virk

Amrik Virk advised Kwantlen on secret executive bonus

Advanced education minister admits he wrote emails, says it's up to Premier Christy Clark to decide if he stays in cabinet

Opposition MLAs have renewed their call for Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk to be removed from cabinet, after releasing emails showing Virk took part in discussions about a hidden bonus for a university executive.

Virk was on the Kwantlen Polytechnic University board of governors in April 2011, when an offer was made to then-University of Regina dean of business Ann Lavack for the position of vice-president academic (VPA) for Kwantlen.

Emails released by the NDP Monday show Virk, then an inspector with the Langley RCMP and a volunteer Kwantlen board member, participating in discussion to get around the B.C. salary guidelines for the job.

NDP leader John Horgan said Monday the emails were provided from a “whistleblower” at Kwantlen, who found printouts in a binder. Horgan said they contradict an internal investigation by an assistant deputy minister that determined board members were not involved in decisions to pay executives more than provincial rules allowed.

The Kwantlen VPA salary was capped at $170,000, less than what Lavack was making in Regina. The emails discuss adding $100,000 for moving expenses and a $20,000 “research allowance.”

Virk confirmed Monday that he wrote in an April 2011 email from his RCMP account: “Given the low pay level of a VPA at Kwantlen and the difficulty in drawing candidates within the current pay scale, the research leave is one way to ‘top’ off the pay level.”

Virk said he had forgotten the email exchange, and it will be forwarded to Rob Mingay, the government official who conducted the investigation.

Asked if he should remain in cabinet, with authority over post-secondary institutions, Virk said that is up to Premier Christy Clark.

The government’s Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) set salary ranges for Levack’s position at $125,000 to $175,000. When Levack was hired in 2011, she received the maximum salary, plus a $20,000-a-year research allowance and a $50,000 “consulting fee” before starting work that was not reported to PSEC.

Kwantlen president Alan Davis also received extra payments when he was hired earlier in 2011 that were not disclosed to PSEC. Davis received a $50,000 consulting fee in addition to his $225,000 salary and $35,000 to relocate from New York state.