11/12/2015 13:27 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

Taxpayers group says Alberta School Board Association spent $41K on gifts, meals

CALGARY — A taxpayers watchdog group says the Alberta School Boards Association spent more than $41,000 on staff gifts, meals, recognition and events planning between 2012 and 2014.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says a school board document shows staff members receive $50 birthday gift cards on top of "cake days" celebrating office birthdays each month — costing $4,850 over the last three years.  

The document also outlines a staff Easter egg hunt in 2014 costing more than $900 and says staff members were treated to a Christmas gift costing $100 to $150 each for a total of almost $8,000 in the last three years.

It also shows three staff Christmas dinners cost more than $5,000 — the association's website lists 22 staff members.

The association also appears to have treated staff to Taste of Edmonton tickets costing $1,600 in 2014 and around $1,000 in each of 2013 and 2012.

Education Minister David Eggen says what he has heard "seems very inappropriate."

"I will certainly speak to school boards to ensure that they are providing a degree of transparency and direction to the Alberta School Boards' Association to make sure that the monies that ultimately are public monies are being spent in the best way possible," Eggen said in Edmonton on Thursday.

The taxpayers group wants the school board association to retroactively post detailed expenses and receipts online. It also wants the Alberta government to make the board subject to freedom- of-information requests.

“First it was American conferences barely attended, in-town hotel stays and overpriced office rent, and now we see the (board) is expensing birthday gifts and Easter egg hunts for adult staff,” said Paige MacPherson, the federation's Alberta director.

“What will it take for the (board) to let the public see their past expenses and for the province to add them to the FOIP Act?”

School boards are in in Edmonton this weekend for the association's fall general meeting.

“This weekend all 61 school boards should be demanding a detailed accounting of how the (board) is spending taxpayer dollars,” said MacPherson. “Minister Eggen should not send another dollar ... until everyone is confident it won’t end up funding yet another staff Easter egg hunt."

(The Canadian Press, CHED)