Coun. Bell freezing own expenses

Updated story provides corrected amounts for councillor's expenses in 2012, 2013

With $5

With $5

Maple Ridge Coun. Corisa Bell won’t be filing any more expense claims for the rest of the municipal term.

At a recent council meeting, Bell said she is freezing her expenses at the current amount, and will pay her own way to attend events such as conferences.

“I won’t be going to UBCM [Union of B.C. Municipalities, in Whistler] or FCM [Federation of Canadian Municipalities conferences] this year, but I’m going to pay to go to LMLGA.”

Bell is second vice-president of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association and the cost to go to the convention at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in May is between $700 and $800.

She’ll that pay out of her own pocket.

In 2013, Bell exceeded her $5,000 spending allocation by claiming expenses of $8,199. She racked up charges of $6,681 the year before.

With $5,000 allocated to each councillor a year for the three-year term, Bell has incurred expenses of $14,880 in her first two years.

She hasn’t expensed any other items and paid for her own $125 ticket to the Economic Development Association dinner in February.

Coun. Al Hogarth also went over in 2013, claiming $5,962, but also remains within the three-year spending limit.

Mayor Ernie Daykin exceeded his $6,500 yearly allocation in 2012 by spending $6,838 but also remains within the global three-year amount.

Bell also questioned why other councillors don’t use any of their training or expense allowances.

“Why is [Coun.] Judy Dueck not using her expenses? What does that actually mean?

“There’s so much benefit to attending these conferences.”

But after two decades on school board and council and a full-time job and family, Dueck hasn’t gone to any conferences in the current term of council. But says she’s OK with newer councillors attending conferences.

“Just because I don’t go anymore, doesn’t mean I’m not informed, doesn’t mean I don’t care,” Dueck said.

“I understand the need to go to UBCM to get the information.”

And attending conferences is worthwhile, she added.

“I don’t begrudge anybody going. I think there’s value. But I also think you can get information if you don’t go there.

“But I don’t think you should point fingers at someone who doesn’t.”

Bell pointed out that Pitt Meadows council decides in advance what councillors attend which conferences, so it’s known beforehand.

But adopting that policy could lead some councillors to keep another councillor from attending events, said Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.

Bell, in her first term on council, isn’t seeking advice from more experienced councillors, Ashlie added.

“That doesn’t mean she’s more informed than any other councillor,” Ashlie said.

“You can never convince me in a million years that she is more informed than Coun. Dueck. I think that’s just so unfair because she knows darn well the … the amount of information that any one of the long-term councillors can impart to Ms. Bell.”

One of the expenses Bell claimed last year was a $250 ticket to attend the “Meadowridge by Moonlight” fundraiser for Meadowridge School, an independent institution that her eight-year-old daughter attends.

After Bell claimed for that event, Ashlie asked for a review of council’s expenses policy so councillors can’t claim for networking events to which they’re personally connected.

She expects that to be dealt with before the November elections.

Ashlie also took issue with Bell announcing her spending freeze.

“Leaving out the part that I have to [put in a freeze], because I blew the wad the first two years, is kind of a key point.”