Expense guidelines for councillors should be clear

The City of Chilliwack should develop clear guidelines on what taxpayers will fund

In the immortal words of Desi Arnaz, Chilliwack city councillor Sam Waddington “has some ’splainin’ to do.”

Already under scrutiny for expense claims that are $10,000 higher than even the mayor’s, Waddington faced fresh questions last week about his spending habits.

READ MORE: Questions intensify around expenses incurred by Chilliwack city councillor

Leading the inquiry was Coun. Chuck Stam, an unabashed fiscal conservative who won’t be seeking re-election this fall.

Stam had a list of five specific questions that he wants answered.

And with the support of a unanimous city council, he gave Waddington two weeks to provide a response.

At issue is not so much the $1,456.98 spent on six different occasions, but the rationale for the expenditures and the benefits gained by the Chilliwack residents who ultimately foot the bill.

Concern was first raised June 19 when Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz took the unusual step of releasing information about Waddington’s expenses she gleaned through a Freedom of Information Request.

READ MORE: Chilliwack city councillor’s expenses the subject of FOI request by mayor

Since then the pressure has continued, but answers have not been forthcoming, said Stam.

“Ideally we wouldn’t do this by council resolution,” Stam read in a prepared statement, “but note he’s had two months to provide this clarity,”

Most of the questions surround in-room and late-night meal charges and the people he said (or didn’t say) he was meeting with.

“Why was Councilor Waddington entertaining these guests at City Of Chilliwack expense? What benefit accrued to Chilliwack taxpayers?”

Legitimate questions to ask.

But also worth asking is why the City of Chilliwack has no policy guidelines on expense accounts.

Many municipalities have explicit rules in place on what can and cannot be expensed.

Pitt Meadows, for example, has this: “When guests’ meals are included in a business meal expense claim, the guests must be identified and a brief rationale to claim the amount must be included. “

No rationale, no claim.

There are also limits on the amount charged, like a $15 per diem allowance for breakfast.

City staff are expected to bring forth recommendations for a policy framework next week.

Hopefully those recommendations will provide guidance for the councillors who need it, and confidence for the taxpayers who feel they have lost it.

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