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Bell leads 2013 Maple Ridge council list of expenses
Maple Ridge politicians have posted their first list of monthly expenses, following a new council policy approved in December.
Topping the list with the largest amount of for the first 11 months of 2013 is Coun. Corisa Bell, with a total of $7,819.
Bell’s total exceeds the $5,000 allotted annually to each councillor for training and attending conferences.
The tally includes $1,887 for attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver in September, as well as $1,481 for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Vancouver in June. It also includes $1,049 the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association conference in Whistler in May.
Bell says the expenses are worth it because it makes her a better councillor and that the allowance is a global amount apportioned to council as a whole. Some councillors attend events and some don’t, she added.
Council would have to approve any spending that exceeded the $36,500 allotted each year for training for the whole group.
Total council expenses until November were only $22,175.
Bell has spent the past year pressing council to cut spending and taxes.
“I really believe that the public will trust that I’m making every decision conscientiously and I absolutely look over every choice that I make very carefully and relate it to a direct benefit to our community.”
Bell said there are many events a councillor could attend, but she just goes to the most useful ones.
“I really believe that the public trusts that I’m making the decisions.”
She anticipates spending the same amount this year and might attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Niagara Falls.
Bell, who’s second vice-president of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, may have to attend if the president and first VP can’t.
But she’s no longer on the parks board, so she won’t attend that convention this year.
And while the $1,049 fee for the latter showed up as Bell’s expense, the money comes from the parks and leisure services department, which budgets to send councillors and staff to that gathering.
Bell has asked to give presentations at council recapping what she learned at the conferences, but said she was told that there’s no time for such.
Councillors have a chance to comment on issues at the end of council meetings on Tuesday nights, but Bell said most people are too tired and want the meeting over.
She disagrees that people will call her a hypocrite for her expenses.
“I feel good about my decisions,” she said.
“This is a very hard job, so if I’m going to educate myself to do it better, then I feel good about that.”
Bell also attended the Lower Mainland Local Government Association conference last year in Harrison Hot Springs, which cost $703.
The next highest-spending councillor was Al Hogarth, whose total expenses came to $5,838.
Hogarth attended the UBCM conference, which cost $1,861, and the FCM conference, which cost $1,488.
Coun. Bob Masse claimed the next highest in expenses at $2,865.
Other councillors’ expenses, for the first 11 months of 2013, in descending order:
• Mayor Ernie Daykin – $2,245;
• Coun. Michael Morden – $1,830;
• Coun. Cheryl Ashlie – $1,085;
• Coun. Judy Dueck – $493.
Daykin said he introduced posting of monthly council expenses in December to give more transparency, even though council expenses are in the annual statement of financial information.
He declined to comment on Bell’s expenses.
The posting policy also allows councillors to accumulate their spending allowance from year to year.
Council watcher John McKenzie, who’s supporting Daykin for re-election, said councillors should try to minimize their expenses.
“I just think it’s a part-time job and should be kept in line … particularly if you are preaching about cutting staff salaries.”