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> Coun. Questions Mayor’s Expenses
Green Bastard
post Feb 21 2011, 12:10 PM
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By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
Published: February 17, 2011 3:00 PM
Updated: February 17, 2011 3:49 PM

AUTUMN MacDONALD

Observer Reporter

The city’s finance chair is claiming some members of council are misusing taxpayers’ money.

Coun. Sushil Thapar believes some members of Quesnel city council are “greedy” and only “there to make money.”

Specifically, Thapar pointed to council members staying in “five-star hotels” during annual conventions and meetings.

“Is this for luxury or for a meeting?” he asked.

Thapar says he chose to stay at a hotel “one block” from the convention centre in Vancouver [at a “fraction “of the cost.]

“Why not save money?” he asked.

“It’s not mine.”

However, Mayor Mary Sjostrom pointed to the city’s travel policy, adopted in 2009.

It states:

“At the time of booking the accommodation, discretion shall be used as to which properties are used, ensuring that the suggested government rates are utilized.

“To accommodate the traveller and safety issues, first consideration should be given to the conference location. Booking the traveller into that location or close by in another comparable property ensures ease of access to the conference while reducing secondary travel costs, (i.e. taxis, public transportation, and/or car rentals.)

“There’s a policy for a reason,” Sjostrom said, admitting choosing to stay at the convention center is more expensive.

“But this is a convenience and safety issue.”

Not for Thapar.

For him, it’s about the bottom line.

He poined to another area the city could save money.

“I could easily clawback $300,000 in administration costs with no disruption,” he said.

“And that’s on the low end.”

Sjostrom pointed to the $1 million in savings council found during last year’s budget process, adding it is city manager, John Stecyk’s responsibility to administer the city.

“He has gone over our budget line by line,” she said.

“And, for 2011, he did not see a lot of fat.

“He saw we had already cut considerably.”

Sjostrom also pointed to council members approving travel cuts to their budgets.

“Council went from $5,000 a year to $4,000,” she said.

“And the mayor went from $12,000 to $11,000. Council is doing its part.”

Not good enough, argued Thapar, highlighting the city’s consideration of a 5.5 per cent property-tax increase this year.

“We’re running out of money and increasing taxes,” he said.

“Well, of course we

are, staying in five-star hotels.”

Sjostrom noted there is “more to the story” and said she looks forward to meeting with Thapar.

“I am disappointed he chose to use the media to voice his concerns,” she said.

“We need to deal with this. There is so much to do.”
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