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Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin in Ottawa February 25, 2013. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin in Ottawa February 25, 2013. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Senate expenses

Senator Pamela Wallin quits Porter Airlines board Add to ...

Senator Pamela Wallin has stepped down from the board of directors for Porter Airlines amid an ongoing audit of her travel expenses, according to a source with knowledge of the private company’s operations.

The Saskatchewan senator also recently resigned from the board of wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff and Associates, and information about her involvement with both companies has been removed from her personal website.

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Auditors are expected to meet with the Senate’s internal economy committee Thursday to discuss the timeline for producing a final report on Ms. Wallin’s expense claims.

On Wednesday, the Conservative senator in charge of the audits of Ms. Wallin and three other senators revealed that Mac Harb was ordered to repay about $230,000 in improper housing claims.

David Tkachuk said Wednesday that Mr. Harb is expected to return living and mileage expenses accumulated during the past eight years.

Ms. Wallin’s audit is focused on her travel expenses and is still ongoing.

She has already paid back about $38,000 in claims and is expected to owe at least $20,000 more, according to a source familiar with the audit process.

Ms. Wallin did not immediately respond to a question about her status on Porter’s board of directors on Wednesday afternoon. She has repeatedly declined to comment on the audit or the reported repayments, saying she is waiting for the outcome of the audit and a Senate committee report.

A spokesman for Porter told The Globe and Mail last week that the company’s board of directors had decided not to comment on Ms. Wallin’s status as a board member or on the Senate review. Asked for an update on Wednesday, Brad Cicero wrote in an e-mail that the board’s position on the matter “remains unchanged.”

Ms. Wallin has served on the board of directors for Porter since October, 2008. The private company does not normally disclose information about its board members’ compensation, but a 2010 prospectus for Porter Aviation Holdings Inc., prepared when the company was planning to make an initial public offering, indicated that Ms. Wallin was expected to earn $20,417 in board fees that year.

Public filings with Gluskin Sheff and Associates show that she earned close to $73,000 in cash and direct share units in the 2012 fiscal year.

In addition to her corporate board work, Ms. Wallin earns at least $2,000 per year serving on the advisory board for the Ideas Council, according to information filed with the Office of the Senate Ethics Commissioner. She has declined to say what the council is or how much it pays her.

References to her membership on all three boards was removed from her personal website during the past two weeks. As recently as May 31, her website’s biography page mentioned Porter and Gluskin Sheff and Associates three times and the Ideas Council once. None of those names could be found on her biography page on Wednesday evening.

Senators are allowed to serve on corporate boards but must publicly disclose any positions paying more than $2,000 a year, which Ms. Wallin did.

Ms. Wallin, who left the Conservative caucus last month, is one of four senators whose expenses have come under scrutiny in recent months. After external auditors submitted reports on their expenses, the Senate’s internal economy committee found that Mr. Harb, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy each claimed tens of thousands of dollars in improper housing allowances.

Mr. Harb was initially told he would have to repay about $51,000, but the Senate warned at the time that his final bill could rise substantially once it had reviewed his expenses for the past seven years. The total, which comes to $231,649, includes housing expenses, mileage and interest over an eight-year period.

Mr. Harb resigned from the Liberal caucus last month and continues to sit as an independent senator. He has said that he plans to fight the committee’s order to repay the money in court. Neither his lawyer nor his office responded to e-mailed requests for comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Tkachuk announced earlier this week that he would step down as chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee at the end of the week to focus on cancer treatment. He will continue to serve on the committee, but is expected to be replaced as chair by Conservative Senator Gerald Comeau.

Follow us on Twitter: @kimmackrael, @janetaber1

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