Aaron Fitchett, the treasurer of the beleaguered ARCHES injection site in Lethbridge, is a financially entwined with Rachel Notley’s NDP – donating personally to the party and fundraising for them.
While doing so, his supposed “safe consumption site,” received about $7 million annually from the Notley government. Jason Kenney has just put that money on hold.
According to the Elections Alberta database, Fitchett who is a teacher with Lethbridge School Division, personally donated $2,262.25 from his teacher’s salary to Rachel Notley’s NDP while the government shoveled cash ARCHES way.
Following a request by his government to conduct an audit of the ARCHES organization, it was revealed that over $1.6 million is unaccounted for, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent improperly, and a criminal investigation may soon be pending.
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan said of the situation that, “the degree of misappropriation, misspending public money, violation to their contractual obligation, and the poor governance of the organization displayed is deeply, deeply troubling.”
It is not clear what impact Aaron Fitchett’s donations had on the Alberta Government’s financial arrangement with the drug den, but it does illustrate a troubling ideological relationship between the financial misappropriation of the non-profit and Rachel Notley’s cabinet.
“I would hope that the government does not use this as an excuse to go after safe injection sites,” ex-premier Rachel Notley pleaded on Thursday.
Aaron Fitchett’s now deleted Twitter account shows he was actively advertising for both Shannon Phillips re-election chances as well as for an official NDP auction for the benefit of the Lethbridge-East constituency association.
Public funding purportedly being used to help vulnerable people in life-and-death situations was allegedly being misused or simply went missing.
Some of the biggest infractions as outlined by the Calgary Sun include:
- An executive making $96,744 in 2017 saw a raise to $207,830 in 2018, and then $342,943 in 2019
- $13,000 for staff retreats, entertainment, and gift cards
- $8,000 spent on management retreats, plus more than $1,000 on gift cards to board members
- Some top employees travelled to Lisbon, Portugal for a conference totaling more than $4,000
- More than $2,200 for a TV
Auditors found that records were not maintained or were hard to locate, with cash from Alberta taxpayers blending in with that from other sources making it difficult to trace which money was being spent where.
“It is disappointing to think that money meant to help the most vulnerable instead went to line the pockets of the ARCHES organization and their senior executives,” said UCP MLA Roger Reid in the Legislature on Thursday.
Perhaps more shockingly, ARCHES was not able to provide an accurate number on how many employees even worked there, though the number given was greater than that stipulated by their agreement with the province.
In an email exchange between an accountant for ARCHES and an executive, the bookkeeper asks which section the costs for the Portugal trip should be under, to which the accountant is told “SCS please” (Supervised Consumption Services).
In a 2019 the ARCHES site was considered to be the busiest in North America; however, it's not the first time issues have arisen from a drug consumption site. In 2014 an audit of a Vancouver site, the first of its kind in the country, found similar issues with expenses.
It is currently unclear if the incidents that have occurred at these two locations are part of a wider problem with drug consumption sites, or merely localized corruption.
Rebel News has reached out to Aaron Fitchette for comment and will update this story if he responds.