Pitt mayor accepts city insurance contract

Bid by Don MacLean’s business picked over two others

Don MacLean.

Don MacLean.

A company owed by the mayor of Pitt Meadows is currently insuring all the vehicles in the city’s fleet.

Mayor Don MacLean’s business – Sharpe’s Agency Ltd. – won the latest contract for 32 vehicles, including pickup trucks, backhoes, bobcats and fire engines, in 2009.

But since the contract totalled more than $25,000, this year is the first time the mayor’s business had to be identified in a city financial statement – to the surprise of several councillors, who pointed out the mayor was “signing his own cheques.”

The current contract with Sharpe’s Insurance, for $26,730, expires in 2012.

MacLean will not be seeking re-election this year.

“We didn’t know about it,” said Coun. Bruce Bell, who was one of three councillors who inquired about the payment at a committee meeting Tuesday.

“The contract was all above board, so there is nothing wrong with it. But we should have known about it.”

In 2009, the city decided to formalize the way it obtains insurance by inviting proposals, instead of sticking by a previous agreement, which alternated between Sharpe’s and Johnston Meier Insurance.

Three agencies responded to the request for proposals, including Sharpe’s, Johnston Meier and Meier & Company Insurance.

A staff committee picked the best bidder according to set criteria that included experience, the availability of on-site service, a willingness to provide short-term credit and a familiarity with the city’s vehicle fleet.

“In this case, we were looking for our best value. We were looking at what extra service they could provide to us,” explained Pitt Meadows director of corporate services Laurie Darcus.

The mayor was not involved in preparing the proposal submitted by Sharpe’s Insurance to the city, but points out that Pitt Meadows does not have a policy or bylaw that prohibits staff or councillors from doing business with the municipality.

“I tried to stay as far away as possible,” MacLean said.

Coun. Deb Walters, who will be vying for the mayor’s seat in upcoming civic election, stressed she wasn’t insinuating there was something amiss with the insurance contract.

“I know mayor MacLean probably wasn’t happy with it, but it’s our responsibility to ask the questions about where the money goes,” she said after the meeting.

“It’s all above board, so he has nothing to worry about.”

Coun. John Becker, who has been a city councillor since 2002, was aware that the mayor’s insurance agency has insured the city vehicles in the past.

He thought the questions by other councillors to the city’s director of finance were “hardly worth the exercise.”

“I thought it was in very bad taste and either ignored or demonstrated an inability to understand our processes,” Becker added.