By Kevin Werner • Metroland West Media Group
Do you want to know how your councillor and senior staff spend your tax dollars in a timely manner? You may get the chance starting in January 2014.
The city’s governance subcommittee requested staff to create a policy that would allow councillors’ and senior executives’ expenses be disclosed on the city’s website.
“Let’s be straightforward and open,” said Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta. “I’m used to being straight up and forward.”
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark said the public has been reading about politicians in Canada and the United States purchasing ordinary items at extraordinary prices. For instance, a United States auditor last year found the Justice Department was spending $16 per muffin for conferences.
Council in July 2011 directed clerks to examine the issue and refer it to the subcommittee for debate.
Clark said Hamilton could avoid controversy if politicians and staff were to disclose their expenses to the public as quickly as possible. He said if councillors are bound by a disclosure policy, then so should senior executives of the corporation.
Subcommittee chair Russ Powers encouraged his colleagues to complete the policy by next year and to have the process in place by January 2014 in time for the municipal elections in the fall.
“I have no problem with it being in place,” said Powers. “If the elected officials are going to do it, the senior management team (SMT) should also do it. We need to do it right.”
Clerks stated that all councillors should publicly disclose their expenses, and not just a few politicians. Their draft policy will also outline how to disclose the expenses, whether councilors will do it themselves, or the information will be uploaded by staff to the city’s website. It is still undetermined when the expenses would be disclosed, whether on a monthly basis, semi-annually, or as the expenses become available. A draft policy is scheduled to be presented to the subcommittee by June 2013.
Other municipalities already disclose council and staff expenses In. Ottawa, they are uploaded to the city’s website on a monthly basis. The city of Toronto has disclosed its councillors expenses since 2008 on a quarterly basis. The policy does not include staff.
Clark argued the disclosure policy should be done as cheaply as possible, with councillors authorized to do it themselves.
“This prevents any allegations,” said Clark. “We should do it so that is open and transparent.”