The current City Council led by Coun. Chuck Stam followed by Coun. Sam Waddington being piped into chambers for the official Dec. 2, 2014 inauguration of council at City Hall. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Questions intensify around expenses incurred by Chilliwack city councillor

Council votes unanimously to seek clarification of expenses by Sept. 4

The heat is on Coun. Sam Waddington.

Scrutiny intensified Tuesday at city hall after council voted unanimously to ask Coun. Waddington to clarify some of his expenses from last year.

Five questions are being asked, ranging from why he met with certain elected officials, and what benefit that “wining and dining” offered for taxpayers, to why he was paying for officials who have their own expense accounts while attending meetings as a board member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Coun. Chuck Stam asked for a seconder to his motion seeking clarification on the expenses, and got it when Coun. Sue Attrill raised her hand.

Stam, who was one of the people who nominated Coun. Waddington to attend FCM meetings on behalf of Chilliwack, said incurring expenses for “meals, flights and hotels” while doing city business was one thing.

“But there seems to be a strong and recurring pattern of entertaining others who have no direct benefits to provide to the City of Chilliwack, and other potentially inappropriate claims,” said Stam in a prepared statement.

“As a member of this council who has always taken care to ensure taxpayers are respected and their dollars are carefully spent, I was startled that Coun. Waddington has claimed almost $50,000 in this term to the end of June of this year.”

The item came up as “new business” at this week’s council meeting.

“Ideally we wouldn’t do this by council resolution but note he’s had two months to provide this clarity,” said Coun. Stam.

The expenses issue first arose in June, with Mayor Sharon Gaetz asking about two sets of in-room dining breakfast charges, of $76.34 and $92.03 from May of 2017 during (FCM) meetings.

READ MORE: Mayor filed FOI for expenses

When it came up earlier this summer, Coun. Waddington offered transparency on the matter, and said he would make himself available to answer any questions.

Part of his explanation was that for the price of “eggs benedict and orange juice” if a municipal politician can get the ear of busy federal ministers or senior staff in this way, that has legitimate value for taxpayers, and the city, Waddington stated.

He also said he was taken aback by the fact that several of his fellow council members had filed FOI requests to get those details rather than broaching it with him.

READ MORE: Funder for eggs benny

But that wasn’t enough.

“Since that time, several local taxpayers have reached out to him requesting specifics without receiving clarity and have since contacted other councillors including myself looking for answers,” Stam continued at the council meeting.

Stam called it “unlikely” that federal cabinet ministers or officials of any kind would meet in a city councillor’s hotel room, nor did he believe the scenario that the meetings were actually held in the hotel restaurant, but the charges were billed to Coun. Waddington’s room.

Stam said Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer’s name showed up “numerous times” in the expense documents as having been Coun. Waddington’s guest, at Chilliwack’s expense, along with the names of a B.C. mayor and MP.

“What benefit, if any, resulted for Chilliwack taxpayers?” Stam asked.

More details are being demanded of Waddington, who has announced he will be running for mayor this fall.

“Coun. Waddington needs to clarify who he was meeting with in his room, what was the nature of the discussion and what benefits or results transpired to the City of Chilliwack taxpayers.”

When he got the chance to reply said: “Yes, absolutely I will provide that clarity” and later pointed out he had “reasons” for the expenses.

However, Waddington underlined that he only received one message, not several as claimed, from a local business owner seeking details about the expenses, sent via anonymous text.

Coun. Waddington replied to the text that he’d be happy to do that, and wanted to know who it was. He received no response.

Waddington also said that “in the name of collegiality” and the way that he would expect his colleagues at the council table to operate, he would have happily provided further expense details in a report had he been asked directly by one of them, rather than demanding it by way of council resolution and a deadline.

“Perhaps we’ll do that on Sept. 4,” he added.

Council then voted —unanimously — for Coun. Waddington to table clarification of the specific expenses by the Sept. 4 meeting.

Five questions read out by Coun. Stam focus on the following receipts claimed by Coun. Waddington:

1. May 18, 2017, $76.34, for in-room dining breakfast and May 19, 2017, $92.03 charged for another in-room dining breakfast.

2. June 4, 2017, $145.09 at 11:57 p.m. at the Andaz in the Byward Market, Ottawa.

3. June 3, 2017, $120.01 at Ottawa Shore Club at 12:33 a.m.

4. $177.64 claimed on Nov. 22, 2017 at 12:27 a.m.

5. November 24-27, rental of Ottawa AirBnB condo $845.87.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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