Dismissed Auditors Fire Back

Woodsworth Violated University Expense Directives

The dismissal of two longtime Concordia University auditors by President Judith Woodsworth has created a compromising situation for the school with Quebec’s labour review board. In filing a grievance, the auditors have produced a trail of paperwork showing that the university’s senior administrators participated in the same type of behaviour that led to their firing.

In September of 2009, Woodsworth fired Saad Zubair and Ted Nowak because they had allegedly charged $250 worth of restaurant meals to the auditing department’s expense account and concealed it from the president.

The previous month, Woodsworth met with the auditors to discuss ways they could trim their department’s budget.

“When I asked about their expenses, Mr. Zubair made a sign of a zero to me, [leading] me to understand that they had zero expenses,” said Woodsworth at the Labour Review Board on Nov. 2. “I found that curious, and it made me wonder, and that led to my checking and to find that in fact there were expenses, which was the beginning of my loss of confidence in both [Nowak and Zubair].”

Woodsworth found that Zubair had signed off on three restaurant lunches and alleged that Nowak, who was Zubair’s boss at the time, attended the lunches.

“In some cases, [Zubair] was approving his own expenses because he had benefited from some of these events,” said Woodsworth.

The president said she had been lied to and could no longer work with Zubair or Nowak. She drafted a letter of termination with Concordia VP External Bram Freedman and presented it to the auditors in early September.

During cross-examination at the labour review board, the auditor’s lawyer, Rolland Forget, made the president admit to signing off on five lunches she had attended.

In each case, one of Woodsworth’s subordinates would charge the meal to his or her expense account and the president would approve it after the fact. This violated Concordia University Financial Services Directives for Expense Reimbursements, which states: “The expense must be paid for by the most Senior Administrator attending [the meal].”

“Am I to state the rule of having a lunch approved by a superior is subject to a number of exceptions?” asked Forget.

“I would say it’s subject to a number of exceptions,” replied Woodsworth. “The internal auditors on the other hand, I would expect them to be more perfect than the average person in the university.”

The labour review board also found that Concordia University paid for Woodsworth’s husband, Lindsay Crysler, to fly with her on a number of business trips.

Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota said that Crysler, who once chaired the university’s journalism department, was accompanying Woodsworth for “recruiting and promotional” purposes.

“Crysler’s trips were only paid for when he acted as a representative of Concordia,” said Mota.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 14, published November 16, 2010.