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