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Missing Hamilton trustee expense reports blamed on staff slipup

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board fails to post final three reports for 2012

 By Richard Leitner • Metroland West Media Group

A staff changeover is being blamed for the failure of Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees to post their quarterly expenses online for most of 2012 ­– in violation of their own policy.

Board spokesperson Rob Faulkner said the slipup occurred when a new trustee liaison administrator took over the duties. He said the oversight will be corrected as soon as possible.

Hamilton Community News first inquired about the missing reports on Jan. 4.

As of Tuesday (Jan. 15), the final three quarterly reports from 2012 and one from 2011 were still missing from the board’s website, contravening a policy enacted in March 2010 “to maintain a high standard of financial integrity, accountability and transparency.”

The reports are also supposed to be presented quarterly to trustees at their committee of the whole meetings, but this also didn’t happen.

“It just had to do with calendaring and trying to stay up to speed on all the different duties,” Faulkner said. “This is one thing that was kind of missed in that transfer over to a new person and we’re working to fix it right now.”

Board chair Tim Simmons said he was surprised to learn of the missing reports, as trustees are supposed to receive preliminary copies by email before they are posted online to allow them to “check for any discrepancies.”

He said staff had been directed to post the reports online, but he doesn’t visit the designated page and isn’t sure if trustees have been receiving email copies.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t look at it, usually. My expenses are pretty simple,” Simmons said.

“The board is preoccupied with increasing transparency throughout the organization and this is one we had started a long time ago,” he said, noting trustees are also in the midst reviewing their governance rules.

“We don’t want to take a couple of steps forward and one step back.”

Allowed expenses under the policy include those for travel to and from board meetings, a home phone, Internet connection, cell phone and professional development, like attendance at trustee-related conferences.

Forbidden ones include alcohol and any expenses “of a personal or political nature.”

The most recent quarterly report posted on the board’s website, for the period of December 2011 to February 2012, shows trustees claimed a total of $8,572.99 in expenses. Cell phone charges accounted for the biggest portion at $3,584.95, followed by travel at $2,411.92 and Internet service at $960.26.

East Mountain trustee Laura Peddle topped individual expenses at $1,507.77, while Alex Johnstone, trustee for wards 11 and 12, had the fewest claims at $300.40, all of it for cell phone charges. Simmons claimed $374.05.

 

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