February 19th, 2018

Use of expense ‘pot’ questioned

By Letter to the Editor on December 5, 2017.

Re: “Council expense numbers don’t tell the full story,” Sept. 14 Lethbridge Herald.

In reviewing this article in The Herald I find issue on several counts.

1. The mayor indicates that all travel expenses must be signed off by himself and the city manager. Reading from the City website handbook for candidates it clearly states that all councillors’ travel and per diem must be signed by the mayor with an indication as to what expenses are expected. I find no reference to the city manager’s approval, which would indicate that the city manager is comfortable with councillors’ allotments as they stand at $10,500 each per year.

2. I question the use of a “pot” of unused expenses by other council members. Again it is clearly indicated in the candidate handbook travel at $7,000 per year and per diem at $3,500 per year for the total of $10,500 per year per councillor. I have dug to the depths of darkness and can find no reference, agenda item, motion regarding making unused expenses going into a “pot” to be used for councillors to overspend their allotments.

3. I would expect that as these expenses are contained within the renumeration package for council that a motion, discussion and an open vote would be required to alter this from a personal responsibility issue to a communal pot one. Was there? As my wife so aptly questioned, how does that work, first one to the pot digs in and the rest get what’s left?

I am just asking if I can be pointed to the link to where individual expenses became a pot of unused expenses. As Councillor Hyggen stated on Global, he has gained valuable insight, knowledge and education from spending all this money. The taxpayers just didn’t realize that we would have to pay for him to start from scratch!

George McCrea


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14 Responses to “Use of expense ‘pot’ questioned”

  1. Montreal13 says:

    A review of expenses since Councillor Hyggen has been on council may find him being over limit before. His trip to China before, during and after , was very low key on his social media sites etc. I thought it was non existent. But have since been told there was one small , low key mention of it on his social media. But only after a request was or an inquiry was made about why the low profile. That of course, maybe a coincidence. In a newspaper article, it was inferred that a benefit was made of this trip by Spearman and Hyggen , for Lethbridge. The Chinese nicknamed Spearman ,Mr. Peanut because he wore a top hat the whole trip. A company name was mentioned ,that apparently their trip encouraged to come to Lethbridge. But when a friend of mine goggled the name ,it was found that that company had been in or around Magrath for about 10 years already. Is there two companies with that name, perhaps? Anyways, I found the quotes from Mayor Spearman in the newspaper article on this subject, to be vague and dismissive.
    Mr. Hyggen originally ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility. After elected he immediately voted against Wade Galloway’s resolution that council not have their meals funded by taxpayers on Mondays. That’s the pattern I have seen established over and over and do not expect to see any different. Mr. McCrea’s letter is especially important if Councillor Hyggen has any ambitions to run for mayor next time. By the way councilors made over $50,000 last year and they receive a raise EVERY January. Pretty good for part-time work. And yes they are all appointed to committees by the city clerk . Some of those committees rarely meet, some as necessary , some monthly and some hardly at all. Also, attendance records and participation at these committee meetings(coming prepared and informed) by our elected reps would be very enlightening to some.

  2. HaroldP says:

    Factual letter from Mr. McCrea, and comments from Montreal13 chime together. Spend – Spend even though established guidelines are in place. The suggestion of a “Pot” is ludicrous, however I have come to realize that our Mayor will proclaim what ever is expedient whether or not based on fact. Short answer to this situation, have the responsible council member(s) pay back what they have over spent. As Montreal13 notes, with a salary of $50K, this should not be a problem. For latest information on Mayor/Council travel expenditures, you may wish to check out: http://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/City-Council/Documents/2017%20Council%20Travel%20Expenses%20Public%20Report.pdf

  3. snowman says:

    you are correct George but all expenses are unvouchered which
    is not typical in corporations. The question why do taxpayers need
    six councillors to attend Federation of Canadian Municipalities
    Convention total expenses over $16,000. are they getting educated
    how to deal with taxpayers or is it favouratism? The only councillor that
    filed a activity report at a council meeting was Council Coffman, this
    should be required. Info recieved was three councillors perform quite
    well in refreshment rooms.

  4. Montreal13 says:

    Thank you all for your valuable insight. These conventions can just be party time and are an insult to taxpayers. All relevant info could be communicated by email etc.. One councilor should have been chosen to go at the very most. Better yet have a test afterwards about relevant content. See how many would even pass that one. If they don’t pass, they pay the taxpayer back. Not many would volunteer in that case. This is an outrageous disregard for taxpayers. Many of whom will never have any idea how many councilors got another free ride. Plus this convention will change very little because not enough elected officials have the guts for the messiness of change. One or two councilors will bring forth a resolution for change and it will be defeated. Even by one elected official who called city admin crooks at the 2013 SACPA election forum, in the Yates memorial center.. Once he was elected he put blinders on ,it seems? I say get rid of half of them and bring in an ombudsman and auditor. Their attendance and contribution at their so called committee meetings is poor. Wish that was publicly reported. Again it is not because they can’t try and fix the continual rape of taxpayers – its because once elected many don’t want to. It’s working for them now so why change?

  5. Thank you George for your letter. I am sure you put more work into searching for this information than most of our elected officials did last year. However as you and some others already know, the “fiscal responsibility” at city hall is a joke. The notion that Hyggen and Spearman were creating business relations while on a trip to China is laughable. There is no social conscience at the council table. All one has to do is observe a council meeting. Case in point, granting the U of L $250,000 to host a hockey tournament. Take a look at the financial statements of the U of L. The University is currently sitting with over 250 million dollars of cash and investment assets. Why the hell do they need taxpayers money to host a tournament? Spearman acknowledges that 20% of citizens of Lethbridge are in poverty, however the cash giveaway continues. Any social conscience that this man had went down the toilet with the last pint of beer. Sickening… and we the people continue to vote these clowns into office.

    • George McCrea says:

      Thanks to all. A very instructive google is Starfield Magrath. This is the center piece of the Mayors delegation to China. The claim is that they were helpful in getting a 5 million dollar loan for this company to operate in Magrath. If this were the case I highly recommend they replace Trudeau when it comes to negotiating with China. This is another letter in itself.

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