Pay increased for acting mayor

NANAIMO – Policy dictates how and when city council is allowed to spend taxpayer dollars.

City councillors will earn higher pay for stepping into the role of acting mayor, under a new spending policy.

City manager Tracy Samra introduced two last-minute policies on governance and spending at a city council meeting Monday, which she considered urgent and ones the city could not go another day without. Both policies were approved and are now in effect.

The governance policy lays out direction on a new portfolio system that was announced last week and the role of the acting mayor, and requires council to work together to ensure statements of information provided publicly “accurately reflect the will and direction of council.” The financial policy provides direction on when and how councillors can spend tax dollars.

It’s designed to create clarity and precision when it comes to financial management, according to Samra.

Acting mayors will each get an anticipated $1,189 a year for assuming the role. The pay is a “nominal amount” to reflect enhanced roles councillors assumed since January, said Samra.

Council moved ahead with new duties for the acting mayors, like those under a new portfolio system and governance protocol, which requires they attend all public meetings and functions with the mayor.

The policy was urgent for Samra because of questions generated by council, the public and media in context of work by the Integrity Group, hired last year to work with council, and she said it was important to have one policy “that everybody understands how it operates and any ambiguities be addressed and resolved.”

Coun. Bill Bestwick called the policy  “housekeeping” and consolidation of policies that were all over the place.  Coun. Gord Fuller referred to both policies as important and said he’s hoping “it will eliminate $28,000 bills that we don’t know about until we get the invoice.”

Mayor Bill McKay, however, told the News Bulletin he finds the spending policy extremely narrow and unnecessary.

“It’s never been required before,” he said. “All of these new rules and all of these new policies have come into place since our new manager came on board. Many of these ideas were not council’s.”

He said the policy requires the mayor to go through three levels of approval – the deputy mayor, chief administrative officer and finance – and doesn’t know if  he takes a businessman out to lunch if it would be approved.

McKay says he now has to invite all of council and the city manager if he meets with a citizen, adding that recently when McKay advised a citizen that he can no longer meet alone, the meeting was cancelled.

“It’s going to hamper relationships, there’s no doubt about it.”

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