The CEO of British Columbia housing operator the Atira Women’s Resource Society is stepping down after an audit found a conflict of interest over her marriage to the former head of Crown social housing provider BC Housing.
The society says Janice Abbott is resigning with immediate effect.
Elva Kim, who chairs the board of Atira, which is BC Housing’s largest housing operator, says in a statement that she’s confident Abbott’s resignation will allow Atira to continue its work with “fewer distractions.”
The statement thanks Abbott for helping “thousands of women and children” over 31 years of leadership at Atira, and says the board’s focus is on restoring public confidence in the organization.
A forensic audit by Ernst and Young found mismanagement, risk to public dollars and violations of conflict-of-interest rules at BC Housing related to former chief executive Shayne Ramsay, who is Abbott’s husband.
The review found Ramsay repeatedly influenced decisions that benefited Atira, and says a lack of oversight resulted in a culture of tolerance for non-compliance with conflict-of-interest policies.
“The board and staff at Atira are deeply committed to serving and protecting women and children and providing much-needed housing,” Kim says.
The statement says Atira has also returned $1.9 million in surplus funds to BC Housing, agreed to include a government representative as an observer on its board and established a task force to investigate Atira’s policies and practices, including how it deals with conflicts of interest.
It says it has reiterated its commitment to “open, transparent and proactive communication” with the government and BC Housing, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the Ernst and Young report with them.
Atira’s board will be appointing an interim CEO as soon as possible, it says.
Premier David Eby said last Monday when the audit was released that the government expected Atira to take steps to ensure public confidence in its operations, which could include leadership change.
Atira operates 2,969 units of housing for women, children and gender diverse people in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
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