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RVC council votes to post councillor expenses online next term

After a notice of motion was brought forward at the previous meeting, Rocky View County (RVC) council has voted in favour of posting each councillor’s expenses on the County’s website.
Rocky View County council voted to start reporting councillor expenses on the County's website starting at the beginning of the next council's term. File Photo/Rocky View Weekly

After a notice of motion was brought forward at the previous meeting, Rocky View County (RVC) council has voted in favour of posting each councillor’s expenses on the County’s website – starting after the upcoming municipal election.

At their June 8 regular meeting, council directed the County’s staff to begin quarterly reporting for each councillor’s expenses. The expense reporting will take place on a quarterly basis, starting at the beginning of the next council’s term. The decision intends to increase public transparency, accountability and trust, while decreasing the number of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) requests the County receives.

“The reason it goes through staff right now is because there are rules guarding [FOIP],” said Deputy Reeve Kim McKylor. “This isn’t about a lack of transparency. If someone in my division wants to FOIP the balance of my expenses, I’ll pay the fee. This is an awesome step forward.”

The item passed with a vote of 6-3. Interestingly, the two councillors who had brought the motion forward on June 1 – Couns. Kevin Hanson and Crystal Kissel – voted in opposition, along with Coun. Samanntha Wright.

Initially, Hanson and Kissel brought the notice of motion forward in hopes that councillors’ expenses could be reported online as soon as possible and staff would work retroactively to post councillors’ expenses dating back to 2017.

After a lengthy debate, an amendment was made by Coun. Greg Boehlke to start the reporting on a quarterly basis beginning with the next council.

Kissel said after the amendment was made and passed, the intent of the original motion was lost.

“If you think this is an election stunt, it’s not,” she said. “It’s simply being transparent and the fact you all state you are willing to do this, but unwilling to do it today, saying you’ll do it as requested, I find that a little bizarre.”

Losing her support as she said the intent had changed, Kissel added the original motion was “hijacked.”

“The meaning now is gone,” she said. “For that reason, I will not support it. I cannot hold a council in the future to a higher standard than I’m willing to hold myself.”

McKylor rebutted, saying there has never been a standardized process and councillors have never been trained on how to properly complete and report their expenses.

“We all do it differently,” she said. “When things aren’t standardized across the board, they are open to context that may not be relevant.”

Coun. Mark Kamachi said as someone who has received several FOIP requests throughout the current term, he believes these expenses should be sought after for a specific reason, rather than allowing someone to “dig for dirt.”

“It seems like an election ploy,” he said. “For someone who is not seeking re-election, let’s just start with a clean slate.”

Hanson said the debate was interesting, as information about councillors’ expenses is already publicly available – though, through a costly FOIP process.

“I don’t disagree that we need to do this, but I’d also like to point out that the next council can go back a number of terms and post all of the expenses they want,” he said. “I just find this kind of bizarre that we are willing to put this upon the next council, but basically not willing to put what is already processed and available retroactively as a good show of transparency.

“In terms of ratepayer confidence, I am not sure that this helps that much.”

After the motion passed, McKylor brought forward a motion arising that called for administration to standardize expense reporting for councillors and include training for the next council. The municipal election is slated for Oct. 18.

McKylor’s motion arising passed by a vote of 8-1, with Boehlke the only councillor voting in opposition.

Jordan Stricker,
Follow me on Twitter @Jay_Strickz

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