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Pan Am Games mascot Pachi the porcupine is shown in Toronto on July 17, 2013. (MICHELLE SIU/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Pan Am Games mascot Pachi the porcupine is shown in Toronto on July 17, 2013. (MICHELLE SIU/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Pan Am officials expensed overseas flights, wine, parking, orange juice Add to ...

Pan American Games officials dinged taxpayers for flights to exotic locales such as Aruba and Brazil, dozens of bottles of wine, catering, football tickets, orange juice, new dress shirts and parking.

Organizers did not disclose some flights by top executives – Amir Remtulla and Stephen Wallace – after The Globe and Mail asked for the expenses last spring. They only released the information Friday after they were forced to by a second freedom of information request from The Globe.

TO2015 officials waited until the legislature had gone on break to provide the 5,000 pages of expense information. On Friday morning, after MPPs had left Queen’s Park for two months, Pan Am officials arrived unexpectedly with bankers’ boxes full of expense reports and receipts.

They defended the vast majority of the expenses as the legitimate cost of organizing the Games. They said a handful were unacceptable and had been reimbursed.

Officials charged for hundreds of flights over four years, the papers show. These included a trip to the Cayman Islands to watch a wakeboarding championship and a jaunt to Brazil to “investigate talent/artists” for the 2015 Games in Toronto. They also expensed excursions to Aruba, Cuba, Mexico, France, Italy, Argentina, Peru, Spain, Guatemala and Haiti, among other places. Thousands of dollars went towards such things as airline-seat changes on these trips.

Pan Am employees spent further tax money on 40 bottles of wine and four cases of beer for one reception in May, 2013, and tens of thousands of public dollars on catering from La Prep, Daniel et Daniel and Against the Grain Urban Tavern, so they could eat during meetings. Other expenses included $109.10 for a wine tasting in September of last year and $1,288.20 worth of dress shirts from Harry Rosen.

TO2015 CEO Saad Rafi admitted he decided to wait until the last day he was legally allowed to before releasing the documents. He said his staff discussed the release date with the office of Liberal Culture Minister Michael Coteau. “It was by the timelines. It was the day we had available to us. That was the decision we made,” he told reporters Friday.

Among the flights were ones taken by TO2015 vice-presidents Mr. Remtulla and Mr. Wallace to Ottawa in late summer, 2012. Pan Am officials did not disclose these flights last spring, when The Globe previously made a freedom of information request for all Pan Am executive expenses, including those of Mr. Remtulla and Mr. Wallace. On Friday, Pan Am spokeswoman Neala Barton said she had no explanation for why the organization previously refused to disclose those flights.

The Globe filed a second request last July for every expense incurred on the organization’s corporate purchasing cards. TO2015 asked for $1,500 from the newspaper to process the request. Pan Am cashed The Globe’s cheque on Nov. 26, but waited more than two weeks before releasing all the documents publicly and reimbursing the newspaper.

Mr. Rafi defended most of the expenses, including the flights. Some were contractual obligations, where Pan Am flew its officials to meet with sport officials from other countries at conferences. In other cases, TO2015 flew foreign sport officials to Toronto to check out local facilities.

“We have obligations by contract and by statute. … There are 51 sports, 68 disciplines, there are international sports federations for every one of those sports,” he said.

In other cases, Pan Am decided of its own volition to send officials on overseas trips.

Mr. Rafi said the spending on dinners and alcohol was part of the organization’s entertainment budget. TO2015 bought the football tickets, for a Toronto Argonauts game last summer, to bring athletes to the Rogers Centre and raise awareness about the Games. “We made a choice to promote the Games through those means,” Mr. Rafi said.

But he said a handful of the expenses are unacceptable. Officials reimbursed some of them, including parking charges, orange juice and dress shirts, when they were about to be publicly exposed. Other expenses were reimbursed earlier, including the wine tour.

Mr. Rafi said he hoped these matters would not overshadow the Games. “We are trying,” he said. “No one’s perfect.”

With a report from Robyn Doolittle

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Follow us on Twitter: @adrianmorrow, @DakGlobe

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