Exactly a week after the Province released its forensic audit of BC Housing and former-CEO Shayne Ramsay's conflict of interest with Atira Women's Resource Society, Atira's CEO Janice Abbott -- Ramsay's spouse -- has now resigned, following a defiant organizational response to the audit.
Atira announced on Monday that Abbott had "stepped down" effective immediately, and that the organization will be led by the Executive Directors of Operations, Human Resources, and Finance while the Board goes through the process of appointing an interim CEO.
"The Board thanks Janice for helping thousands of women and children over her 31 years of leadership at Atira," the organization said in a statement. "The focus for the Board now is working collaboratively with the BC Government and BC Housing, and restoring the public's confidence in Atira’s integrity, vision, mission, purpose and values."
This parting of ways comes after Atira said in its initial response to the release of the audit last week that "Atira's Board of Directors remains confident that its CEO and senior management will guide the organization through these challenges and make required improvements to Atira’s operations and administration."
Atira says it will now strive to restore the public's confidence in the organization through several actions.
The first action is returning the surplus funds for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal year. In a letter to Atira Board Chair Elva Kim dated May 4, BC Housing Board Chair Allan Seckel said that "following the financial review of Atira for FY'20 and FY'21, BC Housing has determined Atira's surplus to be $1,908,172" and that BC Housing "require the surplus be returned immediately."
In a response letter dated May 5, Kim said Atira was still awaiting relevant documentation and would continue holding those funds in restricted accounts, effectively denying the return. Atira then returned the surplus to BC Housing on Thursday, "following receipt of the financial information Atira's staff had requested."
The second action is to establish a task force to oversee the hiring of a third party to review Atira's policies and practices, "including how it makes decisions on real estate matters and deals with conflicts of interest."
This comes after Atira responded to findings of the forensic audit in a 15-page letter -- through McConchie Law Corporation, a firm that specializes in libel litigation -- pointing out what the organization believed to be factual errors, including the abnormal amount of funding Atira received compared to other providers. Atira also took aim at the author of the report, who was unnamed.
"The report should be given no weight or credibility if the author(s) remain(s) anonymous," the letter -- which begins by saying it represents Atira and Janice Abbott -- says. "It is impossible to assess whether the anonymous author(s) possess the requisite skill, knowledge, and experience to perform the scope of the work outlined in the report or whether they are sufficiently independent to provide objective opinions."
On Monday, along with announcing Abbott's resignation, Atira also said that it has since also told the provincial government and BC Housing that it has agreed to include a representative from the provincial government as an observer on its board and would welcome to opportunity to discuss the BC Housing audit findings with them.
The forensic audit's primary focus was on then-CEO of BC Housing Shayne Ramsay and his favourable treatment of Atira. Ramsay abruptly retired in August 2022, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren, making no acknowledge of a May 2022 review of BC Housing that found problems with how the organization awarded contracts.
By late September, the Squamish Nation named Ramsay as the Executive Vice President of Real Estate and Development of their Nch’ḵay̓ Development Corporation. Late last Friday, however, the Nch’ḵay̓ Development Corporation announced that Ramsay no longer held that position.