FVRD director ordered to return funds to district

At least one director will have to reimburse the Fraser Valley Regional District for expenses he failed to support during an audit.

Directors at the Fraser Valley Regional District who failed to support some expenses during a recent audit must reimburse the district, the board of directors decided at the last meeting.

This ruling will concern at least Area B director Dennis Adamson. Adamson underwent an audit earlier this year of his 2011 and 2012 expenses after failing to provide supporting documents for claims of $28,545 incurred in 2011.

After the completion of the audit in July 2013, Adamson still had expenses of $1,545 that could not be explained.

The regional district paid out all expenses to Adamson during the year they were incurred.

At the FVRD board meeting on Sept. 25, Abbotsford municipal director John Smith moved that costs that couldn’t be justified through the audit be reimbursed back to FVRD.

“We have to be totally transparent. We have to be held up to scrutiny, public scrutiny, and it may not be a huge amount to the size of the budget of the FVRD, but it’s the principle of the thing,” said Smith.

Smith referred to the ongoing investigation of senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses. Wallin has already paid back over $140,000 to the government.

“The reality is, they paid it back anyway. Maybe under protest, but they paid it back. And I think that should be done,” said Smith.

The final amount to be returned to FVRD is still to be determined, as is the final list of directors concerned. Area C Director Wendy Bales was the other elected official who faced a stringent audit of 2011 and 2012 expenses after she didn’t provide supporting documents for 2011 expenses of $14,032 in due time. Bales passed the audit with no leftover balance.

FVRD staff are currently determining the final amount to be returned, are discussing with affected directors, and will report back to the board in a future meeting.

Directors were feeling the pressure of a public spotlight on spending by elected officials at the Sept. 25 meeting.

“The public perception nationwide – there’s a lot of skepticism, cynicism about politicians in general…I think it behooves us to really be vigilant and even more careful about it,” said Abbotsford municipal director Dave Loewen.

A heated discussion ignited about cost of travel.

Directors are reimbursed for travel at $0.52 per km for scheduled meetings. On top of that, they can claim up to 400 km per month for meetings with constituents.

The discretionary amount does not vary according to the size of the electoral district, a challenge for some directors.

“Area B is geographically a lot larger in size, and you pay extra so that the director can meet with his or her constituents. The only way that we can guarantee access is to top it up,” said Adamson.

Bales said that she has been using her personal savings to cover the cost of constituency travel.

On Sept. 29, 2013, the FVRD revoked a long-standing policy to top up Area B’s travel expenses by an additional $5,000 per year, and director David Lamson’s Area E by $350. Although Adamson used the full additional credit every year, Lamson has not claimed his in recent years.

Director Bill Dickey, overseeing a smaller Area D, said the discretionary 400 km per month is sufficient and generous.

“For someone such as myself, I never claim anything in this regard, and I shouldn’t, because I’ve got a very compact area,” said Dickey. “People such as director Adamson, obviously, are in a different situation. That’s why this (discretionary amount) was put in place.”

The board of directors resolved to adopt a new travel expense policy that laid out guidelines of distances between the regional office and electoral district offices, reaffirmed that supporting documents are needed for all claims, approved an electronic tracking sheet for mileage, and abolished the top-up credit of $5,000 for large areas.

Chair Sharon Gaetz was pleased with the results.

“It feels like today, the accountabilities are tightening,” she said.

Chief Administrative Officer Paul Gipps remains confident that these policy changes mark a new era in FVRD accountability.

“Their (the directors’) interpretation of what was allowed, and the board’s interpretation of what was allowed, was differing. I’d say that’s very clear now. It’s very clear to staff what we should accept and what we shouldn’t accept,” said Gipps. “I’m very comfortable in saying that the likelihood of this happening again is basically nil.”

akonevski@abbynews.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A police vehicle turns on to Landing Drive on the Skwah Reserve on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
One man charged after allegedly pointing firearm at Chilliwack RCMP officer

Richard Joseph Williams faces 6 charges after March incident near McCammon elementary and Skwah

Linnea Labbee outside the Chilliwack Law Courts on April 1, 2021 on day 16 of her trial in BC Supreme Court where she is charged in connection with the fatal hit-and-run of a 78-year-old woman on Mary Street on Dec. 1, 2016. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crown seeking jail time for 72-year-old Chilliwack woman found guilty in fatal hit-and-run

Trial of Linnea Labbee who struck and killed 78-year-old woman in 2016 ended Monday

RCMP patch. (File)
Young prolific offender from Hope faces another raft of charges

Jacob Paul Sihata charged in 3rd set of serious incidents since he was 19

Former Merritt Centennial and current Chilliwack Chief Jackson Munro (left) evades Merritt’s Chase Cook during a weekend BCHL game at the Chilliwack Coliseum. (Darren Francis photo)
Goalies lead Chilliwack Chiefs to pair of wins in weekend BCHL action

Mathieu Caron picked up a shutout Friday and Jakob Gullmes earned his first BCHL victory Sunday

Environment Canada says the Eastern Fraser Valley will enjoy plenty of sunshine this week. (Black Press News File)
Sunny weather to stay around all week in Eastern Fraser Valley

Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Hope all forecasted for a week free of rainfall

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
Puppies stolen during weekend break-and-enter in South Surrey

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s assistance in locating three American Bulldog puppies

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Most Read