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Council expense policy questioned

Council briefs: Whistler bars and restaurants organize against proposed bowling alley

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W hen council received the annual Statement of Financial Information report at its June 19 meeting, Councillor Steve Anderson questioned the RMOW's council expense policy, wondering how Coun. Sue Maxwell managed to drum up nearly $7,000 in expenses in 2017.

Maxwell spent $6,860 last year, followed by Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden ($4,711) and Councillors Jen Ford ($3,222), John Grills ($1,254), Jack Crompton ($615), Anderson ($444) and Cathy Jewett ($58—though she was only in office for a month in 2017).

Maxwell responded by saying she inquired about developing a specific policy to look at councillor expenses, and was told councillors are allowed to attend the Union of BC Municipalities convention as well as one other overnight conference, but can attend as many one-day sessions as they want.

Maxwell listed a number of conferences she attended on things like renewable energy and waste management, one of which involved meetings with provincial ministry staff—and many of which she did not submit full expenses for.

"So I think it's a question to be asked: What do we want our councillors to do? Do we want them to stay at home and not attend any conferences ... or do we want them to be out there engaging with other councils, generating support for initiatives that matter to our community?" Maxwell said, to applause from one member of the audience.

Anderson disagreed.

"I don't believe that councillors should be spending taxpayers' money without authorization. End of story," he said.

Later in the meeting, under Other Business, Anderson asked if the policy could be amended to require mayoral approval, or that of a majority of council.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden noted it's never been an issue before.

"So why don't we raise it as an issue and either ask the HR committee to take a look at it, or even finance and audit if it requires a more formalized approach," she said.

There is no limit to individual council expenses, so long as it fits within the allocated annual budget ($428,728, of which $300,007 went to wages in 2017).

On Nov. 7, 2017, council replaced its Expenses Policy with an updated Council Travel and Expense Reimbursement Policy.

The main change was a move to per diems ($60/day for travel inside North America, $70/day outside N.A.) and a focus on best practices (like choosing modes of transportation that minimize costs and greenhouse gas emissions).

The policy states that the RMOW will reimburse mayor and council for eligible expenses like travel fares, accommodations, mileage and purchases made on behalf of the organization.

To be eligible, expenses must be incurred only for the purpose of representing the RMOW.

Some expenses are not reimbursable, like toiletries, reading materials, childcare and in-room movies, or expenses incurred by family members.

Bars and restaurants oppose bowling alley

Whistler's bars and restaurants have organized en masse against a proposed bowling alley/restaurant in Whistler Village.

Included in the June 19 council package were letters from 11 restaurant managers and owners, as well as letters from the Whistler Bar Group Association, Whistler Pub Sector and the Restaurant Association of Whistler, representing dozens of other businesses.

The amount of staff needed to operate the proposed facility and a lack of available housing are at the centre of the F&B community's opposition.

The letters can be found in the June 19 council package starting on page 439: www.whistler.ca. Representatives for proponents National Beerhall Inc. did not provide comment before Pique's deadline.

Pick up next week's Pique for more.

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