Atwell asks Saanich to pay for trip that wasn’t in bud­get

Times Colonist - - Front Page - CINDY E HARNETT

For­mer Saanich mayor Richard Atwell is ask­ing coun­cil to re­im­burse him $4,535.99 in travel ex­penses for an unau­tho­rized trip he took to Ja­pan in Au­gust.

While city staff says it’s not a lot of money, there is no pro­vi­sion in the bud­get to cover it.

Coun. Colin Plant said ap­pre­ci­ates Atwell’s work in Ja­pan on be­half of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity but is con­cerned he didn’t first bring his in­ten­tions and costs be­fore coun­cil as re­quired: “He’s given us this awk­ward dilemma whether to re­im­burse him for a cost he should have asked ap­proval for.”

Chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Paul Thorkels­son said in a re­port to coun­cil that at the time of the trip he ad­vised Atwell and coun­cil that in­ter­na­tional travel rep­re­sent­ing Saanich should be ap­proved by coun­cil.

“Mayor Atwell ad­vised that this travel was cov­ered un­der the coun­cil re­mu­ner­a­tion and ex­penses pol­icy un­der the pro­vi­sion of the mayor hav­ing au­thor­ity to at­tend any meet­ing be­lieved to be in the in­ter­ests of the Dis­trict,” wrote Thorkels­son.

“While not a sig­nif­i­cant amount, it is im­por­tant to note that there was not any funds es­tab­lished in the 2018 bud­get for the pur­poses of in­ter­na­tional travel by a mem­ber of coun­cil.”

Atwell has writ­ten a re­port about the trip that he wants to sub­mit to coun­cil. It in­cludes rec­om­men­da­tions about es­tab­lish­ing a sis­ter-city re­la­tion­ship with Hat­sukaichi, a city of about 120,000 in Hiroshima Pre­fec­ture.

Coun. Su­san Brice said she sup­ports a staff rec­om­men­da­tion to only re­ceive the in­for­ma­tion. “Any de­ter­mi­na­tion about Saanich pay­ing or not pay­ing af­ter the fact is in­ap­pro­pri­ate, in my opin­ion,” said Brice.

“If that’s the type of thing the for­mer mayor had wanted the pub­lic to pay for, he should have come and raised that in a pub­lic meet­ing and coun­cil could have made a de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

Brice said it’s pol­icy to get ap­proval be­fore spend­ing and that the dol­lar fig­ure is not rel­e­vant. “Pub­lic funds are not some­thing you can just spend and then be re­im­bursed for after­wards. There’s a process.”

Atwell’s sum­mer trip to Ja­pan and the sis­ter-city idea was never dis­cussed by coun­cil, said Brice, “even briefly.”

In April, a del­e­ga­tion from Hat­sukaichi toured Saanich with Atwell. The del­e­ga­tion made a pre­sen­ta­tion to coun­cil. Sub­se­quently, Atwell re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion from Hat­sukaichi’s mayor to tour that city. In June, Atwell ad­vised staff he was ar­rang­ing travel for that pur­pose. He was there Aug. 3-6.

Atwell said he em­pha­sized with Hat­sukaichi’s mayor that a post­elec­tion coun­cil mo­tion to for­mal­ize the re­la­tion­ship would be best.

He de­tails in his re­port all of his meet­ings in­clud­ing a speech given by a sur­vivor of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bomb­ing of Hiroshima and later vis­it­ing the Hiroshima Peace Me­mo­rial Cer­e­mony at­tended by 50,000: “There are few words to de­scribe how solemn and mov­ing this event was. I can say that it deeply af­fected me and re­newed my in­ter­est in dis­ar­ma­ment and the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion.”

Atwell said cul­tural ex­changes, ed­u­ca­tion, op­por­tu­ni­ties for trade and sport are all part of the sis­ter­city re­la­tion­ship, and he has done the ground­work in es­tab­lish­ing it. “Saanich should em­bark upon this re­la­tion­ship for the bet­ter­ment and pros­per­ity of the com­mu­nity that it rep­re­sents.”

For­mer Saanich mayor Richard Atwell made a trip to Ja­pan in Au­gust af­ter re­ceiv­ing an in­vi­ta­tion from the mayor of Hat­sukaichi, a city of about 120,000 in Hiroshima Pre­fec­ture. A del­e­ga­tion from Hat­sukaichi toured Saanich with Atwell in April. Atwell ad­vo­cated a sis­ter-city re­la­tion­ship.

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