Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Fired Chestermere mayor racked up $8,500 in meals, booze on public dime

Jeff Colvin tells Postmedia his Chestermere-issued bank card was solely used for “metropolis enterprise issues.”

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Fired Chestermere mayor Jeff Colvin spent greater than $8,500 on meals and booze on the general public dime over the course of simply 4 months earlier this yr, in keeping with paperwork filed in courtroom this week.

The previous mayor — dismissed by the Alberta authorities alongside three metropolis councillors and three high directors earlier this month — racked up $8,651.83 in costs on his city-issued bank card whereas eating out 84 occasions from March to June this yr, states a September report by a province-appointed supervisor on “monetary irregularities” on the Metropolis of Chestermere.

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“The meals charged to the mayor’s bank card embrace alcohol purchases. In a minimum of one case, the receipt offered reveals solely beverage purchases,” reads the report, penned by official administrator Doug Lagore.

The monetary report is included amongst virtually 300 pages of paperwork connected to an affidavit that Colvin filed in courtroom Thursday in assist of an utility launched by himself and the three different councillors faraway from workplace for an injunction that might pause Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver’s dismissal order.

Lagore’s report states there isn’t a express prohibition within the metropolis’s coverage on expensing alcohol purchases, however he stated it was an “inappropriate use of public funds.” He additionally stated a number of the mayor’s bank card purchases included a number of costs for alcohol made through the enterprise day.

“This too raises issues. The knowledge offered to me doesn’t determine who attended these lunches. If they’re employees members, this will likely elevate issues about their consumption of alcohol throughout working hours and any insurance policies the town might have in that respect.”

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The report was initially included in courtroom filings from the province in a earlier authorized matter the town launched towards the Alberta authorities, a part of which is connected to the mayor’s affidavit filed this week.

Bank card spending mischaracterized, former Chestermere mayor says

In his sworn assertion, Colvin acknowledged the province’s allegations of monetary irregularities “equates to just about nothing.“ He later pointed to the bank card use for instance of the “mischaracterization of proof” and lack of “procedural equity” by the minister in his dismissal.

“I didn’t abuse my bank card. I’ve two equivalent bank cards, one is the town’s, one is mine personally. On one event, I blended up the playing cards and acquired auto elements. I instantly mounted the error, notified employees and paid the bill quantity to the town,” Colvin acknowledged, claiming he notified the minister’s workplace of the mix-up a number of occasions, nevertheless it continued to accuse him of misusing his city-issued bank card.

Colvin doesn’t point out the meal costs in his affidavit. Lagore’s report does replicate a purchase order for slightly below $100 in auto elements on Colvin’s metropolis bank card, in addition to $140 in land title searches.

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In a textual content message to Postmedia on Saturday afternoon, Colvin stated his metropolis bank card was solely used for “metropolis enterprise issues.” He stated throughout working lunches and dinners involving employees and council, it was simpler to make use of one card — his — to pay, and a number of the prices had been associated to municipal conferences the place lodging had been additionally expensed as per the town’s coverage.

“Plus when having enterprise conferences, I can’t let builders or enterprise individuals pay so there isn’t a notion of giving the mayor, (chief administrative officers) and councillors presents,” Colvin stated.

He pinned a number of the extreme prices on the municipal inspection — the province-ordered governance investigation that finally led to the dismissals — noting, “Many further conferences had been wanted as a result of important further workload and conferences due to the improper inspection and McIver points. Which we absolutely anticipate to go after the province for all the extra workload, employees time and metropolis expense Minister McIver has induced.”

Amongst a handful of examples highlighted in Lagore’s report is a invoice of $228.79 paid at 3:24 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, for seven beers, two smooth drinks and several other appetizers, with an unidentified variety of individuals current. The following night, one other outing of three individuals had a tab of $171.61 for six beers and three meals.

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The doorway to the Metropolis of Chestermere constructing is proven on Thursday, November 2, 2023. Jim Wells/Postmedia

Chestermere coverage allowed $75 each day for meal bills beneath sure situations

The town’s elected officers’ remuneration and bills coverage solely permits $75 each day for meal bills and solely in instances the place a gathering, coaching session or convention doesn’t present meals.

“In my assessment of the mayor’s meal bills, it’s unclear what metropolis enterprise is being carried out. It isn’t recognized who’s in attendance at these meals. Continuously, the receipt will determine that there are three people eating. From others it seems there could also be 4 people eating.”

The province ordered in March that Chestermere flip over monetary data to Lagore month-to-month. Lagore’s report states the town stopped offering receipts associated to Colvin’s bank card in March and it stopped providing statements on any city-issued bank cards in August. Bills within the previous and following months stay undisclosed.

The town’s three then-chief administrative officers famous in a Nov. 2 letter to the minister, additionally included on this week’s courtroom submitting, that they permitted each expense, that council members and senior administration are allowed to expense alcohol, that “all metropolis workers and council” are offered bank cards for expense functions, and that “no expense exceeded the utmost quantity.”

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“It’s unlucky (that) the minister is attempting to suggest there may be monetary mismanagement on behalf of the town when distributing bank cards to administration and council. To counsel council is breaking their spending allowances by expensing small lunches and dinners, in addition to not permitting for small clerical points by administration is disheartening,” wrote CAOs Travis Filler, Kim Wallace and Cam Wong within the doc, a response to McIver’s Oct. 18 letter setting out his plan to dismiss council. “That is seen as greedy at straws to justify pointless interference by the official administrator and Municipal Affairs.”

Lagore’s report states that the town’s coverage doesn’t define any protocols round giving elected officers metropolis bank cards — bills are supposed to be claimed and reimbursed after assessment, per the coverage — and that no different council member had one. The three councillors not dismissed by McIver — Shannon Dean, Sandy Johal-Watt and Ritesh Narayan — every instructed Postmedia they had been by no means issued a metropolis bank card.

Lagore’s report famous bills for the entire of council don’t seem to have been revealed on the town’s web site because the 2021 election, and he wasn’t offered any expense disclosures for some other councillors.

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“The overall function of insurance policies concerning disclosure of elected officers bills is for public transparency on how elected officers use public funds,” Lagore wrote. “The failure of the town to observe this coverage raises issues that it’s conscious these bills are improper or improvident and selecting to not disclose them to keep away from public scrutiny.”

Lagore has continued to work with the town within the wake of the dismissals, now appointed to function the entire of metropolis council till a byelection takes place to fill the vacant seats within the first half of 2024. Of the remaining councillors, Johal-Watt has resigned; Dean and Narayan gained’t maintain any function within the metropolis’s governance till the byelection.

A forensic audit of the town is deliberate to start quickly, with its findings to be publicly launched earlier than the byelection. The mayor stated he and the three dismissed councillors plan to run in that byelection if their injunction utility and different authorized challenges are unsuccessful.

X: @MichaelRdrguez

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