City of Chilliwack will be hiring an independent auditor to review Coun. Sam Waddington’s expenses in detail dating back to the beginning of his term, and refer findings to the RCMP.
|One of a series of redacted emails regarding Chilliwack City Coun. Sam Waddington’s expense claims that have been forwarded to the RCMP. (City of Chilliwack)|
That was passed at a special meeting of council last Thursday, after council heard from Coun. Waddington and his two legal counsel on the subject of the expenses, according to a city news release.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Coun. Ken Popove, who are also running for mayor along with Coun. Waddington, recused themselves from the discussion and voting on the audit motion, in order to avoid any conflict of interest.
“We chose to do so, so that there could be no suggestion it was an attempt to influence the election,” Gaetz said.
Any time something is referred to the RCMP it is “a very serious matter,” Gaetz added.
Mayor Gaetz, and Coun. Chuck Stam, both publicly asked questions about Waddington’s already reimbursed expenses, with each filing separate freedom of information (FOI) requests for details about out-of-town conferences and meetings.
A unanimous vote of council in August requested details about who he was meeting met with, why he was paying for elected reps who have their own expense accounts, and what value it offered for the taxpayer, to which Coun. Waddington responded with a lengthy report.
Since then, some of the people Coun. Waddington stated in his report that he met with, have come forward to say this is not true. Their responses, indicating they did not meet with Coun. Waddington, as alleged in his report, were in a series of emails to Mayor Gaetz, and those emails were released to the public.
Coun. Waddington said after Thursday’s meeting that his next step will be to refocus on his mayoral campaign.
“I will be continuing to have good conversations around housing, and policing, and the many challenges we are facing in Chilliwack,” Waddington said.
“Everyone should be held accountable for their work,” the councillor said adding he will continue to offer full transparency.
But the ongoing discussion about almost $1,500 of his 2017 expenses, which has cost “tens of thousands” of dollars worth of city staff time gathering information, is “political,” he underlined.
“I don’t believe this effort is administrative, I believe it is political,” Waddington said. “And it’s going to be a very expensive endeavour for the city, so it will be up to the public to decide if this was the right course of action to take.”
According to the city release, council will have to “correct” information filed and disclosed to date under Section 168(1)(b) of the Community Charter, and disclose the six related email messages and amended minutes from the Sept. 4, 2018 Council meeting.