White Rock councillor Doug McLean

Reimbursement request denied

White Rock councillor spent over expense limit

A White Rock councillor’s after-the-fact request for reimbursement of $1,312.36 in discretionary expenses has been denied.

Council – with the exception of Coun. Doug McLean, who declared a conflict because it was his request – voted “with respectful consideration” against covering the funds last week. In making the decision, they cited a need to follow their own rules.

“We’re all very well aware” of the policy governing council expenditures, Mayor Catherine Ferguson said.

“We are leaders in the community. We need to be setting an example.”

McLean made the reimbursement request after spending $3,909.36 to attend the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries Annual Corporate Governance Conference, held Aug. 21-24 in Quebec City, Que.

Prior to attending, McLean had $2,597 left in his $3,000-per-term “discretionary educational expense” allocation.

While council policy allows for reimbursement requests for additional expenses, it also mandates that such requests be made before the expense is incurred.

McLean asked council to consider his request on the basis that he did not attend the annual Union of BC Municipalities, Federation of Canadian Municipalities or the Lower Mainland Local Government Association conferences. A staff report notes expenses associated with the 2011 FCM averaged $3,000; for the LMLGA, the average was $700.

In presenting the report, city manager Peggy Clark noted approval of the request would present a risk of higher expenditures in the future should the frequency of such requests increase. However, as each request is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, the risk is “minimal,” the report notes. If approved, staff recommended the funds come from the city’s contingency budget.

Clark noted Monday that McLean has already reimbursed the city for the additional funds.

In discussing the request, Coun. Helen Fathers questioned whether the issue was that McLean didn’t ask first, or that he went over the $3,000, to which Clark replied “both.”

In voicing her opposition to OK the funds, Coun. Lynne Sinclair recalled the approval of a similar request by the previous council in December 2007.

At that time, a decision was made to reimburse then-councillor Matt Todd for funds spent attending the Walk 21 Conference in Toronto that fall.

At the time of the conference, Todd had $1,327.57 left of his $3,000 allocation. Council agreed to apply the balance of the allocation to the tab, and reimburse Todd $1,162.27 out of council expenses.

“It was not well-received by the citizens of White Rock,” Sinclair recalled.

Coun. Al Campbell also recalled the 2007 decision. He remembered being in council chambers as a citizen during the meeting.

“I was quite astonished… when he got it,” Campbell said.

Ferguson noted McLean had previously suggested the expense policy be reviewed, a move she supports. She described last week’s decision as “not a fun part of the job.”

Prior to excusing himself from the discussion, McLean assured council “either way, I will hold no hard feelings.”

 

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