Coun­cil moves to adopt in­terim ex­pense pol­icy

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NEWS - ALLAN BENNER STAN­DARD STAFF

There’s still some fine-tun­ing to be done, but Niagara Re­gion coun­cil­lors are fac­ing new con­straints when it comes to their spend­ing habits.

“Congratulations, we have an ex­pense pol­icy in place — our first ever,” said Niagara chair­man Alan Caslin, af­ter coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously in favour of the new pol­icy.

But while urg­ing coun­cil­lors to sup­port it ear­lier dur­ing the meet­ing, Caslin called some of the ex­penses be­ing filed by coun­cil­lors “egre­gious,” adding they can­not be per­mit­ted to con­tinue.

Re­gional coun­cil has been un­der fire re­gard­ing ex­ces­sive ex­penses claims, rang­ing from $44,000 claimed by Coun. Andy Petrowski to thou­sands claimed by Fort Erie Coun. Sandy An­nun­zi­ata for trips to Toronto to ap­pear on a talk-ra­dio pro­gram.

St. Catharines res­i­dent Ed Smith ap­peared as a del­e­gate at the start of the meet­ing, chastis­ing coun­cil­lors say­ing “once the fact of th­ese ex­pen­di­tures be­came pub­lic, there had not been any sign of con­tri­tion or re­morse ex­pressed.”

And St. Catharines Coun. Brian Heit said he was “some­what sur­prised when I saw th­ese huge ex­penses that were in­curred” par­tic­u­larly through cell­phone and IPad use, af­ter he said he filed free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests to ob­tain the in­for­ma­tion.

With­out a pol­icy in place for the ap­proval of coun­cil­lor ex­penses, act­ing cor­po­rate ser­vices com­mis­sioner Ja­son Burgess said ex­pense such as those filed by Petrowski re­quests were in­stead “pro­cessed” be­fore the funds were re­im­bursed.

Al­though sev­eral coun­cil­lors said re­gional staff should be work­ing to re­cover court costs from Petrowski, Burgess said with­out the pol­icy in place Petrowski could just again charge those fees back to the Niagara Re­gion.

Coun­cil­lor ex­penses will also be posted on the re­gion’s web­site dat­ing back to 2015, al­though Port Col­borne Re­gional Coun. David Bar­rick had hoped to post ex­penses dat­ing back to 1997.

He called it “shame­ful and hyp­o­crit­i­cal” to only pro­vide ex­penses to 2015.

“What is there to hide be­yond 2015?” he asked. “It’s ridicu­lous.”

The coun­cil­lor ex­pense pol­icy will be fur­ther re­fined dur­ing up­com­ing cor­po­rate ser­vice com­mit­tee meet­ings.

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