Taxpayers could pick up spouses’ tab

Some CSRD directors are backing a bid to allow their spouses to attend banquet dinners

  • Mar. 13, 2015 6:00 a.m.

BARB BROUWER

Black Press

A group of Columbia-Shuswap Regional District directors are backing a bid to allow their spouses to attend banquet dinners on the taxpayers’ tab.

A CSRD policy that was put to bed last summer was hauled out again at the Electoral Area Directors meeting, with a majority of the directors agreeing to reverse the previous decision and bring the issue back for the approval of the entire board at the upcoming March meeting.

Adopted in 1981, the travel and expense reimbursement policy that affects staff and the board had never been amended.

This had raised concerns about what expenses were being claimed.

As well, there was a lack of consistency in how expense claims were being processed.

The  new policy included limits on per diems, meal expenses, travel arrangements and partner programs and was taken to the board  in August where it was approved unanimously – without debate.

But Loni Parker, EAD committee chairperson, brought the policy back recently.

As she had last summer, Parker pointed out that spouses are adjuncts to the director, do work on their behalf and deserve recognition.

Parker made clear she was not asking for taxpayers to cover travel or meal costs, only banquets and reception dinners.

“I think it’s important because our spouses are a part of what we do. When they come and give us support at conventions, it would be appropriate for spouses not to pay for dinner,” she said.

“I know myself when my husband comes with me, he’s out there talking to people that I don’t get to because I am inside.”

As well, Parker said spouses, “take the heat” for their political partners in there own communities.

“It’s a nice recognition not to have to pay for their dinner,” she said, asking for the benefit for banquets and receptions at official functions such as the Union of B.C. Municipalities  and the Southern Interior Local Government Association.

“I support the amendment but I think, personally, my wife is not coming, it’s just easier,” said director Larry Morgan, who was one of the most offended by policy changes because of the amount of work his wife was putting in on his behalf.

Director Paul Demenok was adamantly opposed.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate at a convention that’s off CSRD property; it opens the door to way too much negativity,” he said.

“Having said that, I do agree spouses do spend time working for us and I think we should find another way to give them recognition on a less grandiose scale.”

Demenok asked staff if they had investigated whether other regional districts cover the dinners and was advised that in B.C., seven do and 25 do not.

Demenok and director Rene Talbot voted against the motion.

The amendment will be taken to the March board meeting for approval.