Mayor Bill McKay rang up more than $28,000 in expenses during his first full year in office – more than any other mayor in the past decade, city records show.
The City of Nanaimo has released its 2015 Statement of Financial Information, detailing expenses and remuneration for elected officials, as well as top earners at city hall.
It shows that last year city council spent 25 per cent more in the first year of its term than its predecessor and 19 per cent more than in 2014.
First-term Coun. Jerry Hong spent more than any other councillor at $7,759, followed by new councillor Wendy Pratt at $7,367 with the majority of expenses going toward conferences, telephone and Internet costs.
McKay, who made $95,097 in 2015, rang in the highest expenses at $28,302.
City statements of financial information online only date back to 2006, but show the second-highest expenses incurred by a mayor was John Ruttan in 2013 at $11,706.
McKay also topped the spending list during elected office in 2013 and 2014.
McKay said the expenses were generally for attending conferences and events on behalf of the city, such as a Calgary ceremony with the Manson family to celebrate the induction of champion soccer player Harry Manson into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and meetings with Lower Mainland municipalities to get support for fast-ferry service when there was an effort to apply for federal infrastructure money.
The City of Nanaimo will not release detailed expenses without a Freedom of Information request, but shows generally 49 per cent of the mayor’s expenses did go to travel and conferences. Another $3,068 went toward legal costs and $6,429 was spent on the mayor’s trip to China to attract foreign investment.
Victor Mema, the city’s director of finance, said receipts for the trip were still under review when a Freedom of Information request by the News Bulletin in March reported the cost at $5,000.
Coun. Bill Bestwick said the mayor’s expenses seems a little bit excessive based on history and previous mayors in Nanaimo and similar-sized communities, but McKay does not believe he is spending too much. He said he is looking outside the community for ideas to make it a better, pointing to a food truck festival he attended in North Vancouver with Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO Kim Smythe, which led to a rewritten city food truck bylaw.
Earlier this year, council agreed to cap spending, allowing a $1,000 limit for discretionary spending on travel, hospitality and conferences for all members of council. Previously councillors had a pooled budget of $20,000 for conferences and $35,000 for travel and staff development.McKay said the limit is not necessary and points out that council had collectively approximately $75,000 in the budget and never went over. Last year, the collective expense was more than $65,000.
“It’s always been if there’s money in the budget, then someone else who wants to take advantage of an educational opportunity should be able to take advantage of it, which I did,” he said.