City staff will review the expenses of all members of council.
After extensive debates, proposed amendments and defeated motions, council opted against having an independent auditor take a look at Mayor Nolan Crouse’s Capital Region Board and City of St. Albert expenses.
A 3-3 vote killed the motion from Coun. Sheena Hughes, with the mayor sitting out. Tie votes are automatically defeated.
Instead, council decided to have city staff – whose professional capabilities and independence from the mayor were defended by the city manager during debate – review the past 12 months of councillor expenses and the past 36 months of the mayor’s.
“It’s getting so convoluted right now,” said Coun Tim Osborne, questioning how the final motions were arrived at after a great deal of debate. “We’re all over the map here.”
In addition to the staff audit, administration will be consulting the RCMP about whether a police investigation is warranted. Administration will then report to council the results of the audit, the discussions with RCMP and possibly offer changes to the policies governing council expense claim procedures.
Coun. Cathy Heron made the motion, which was accepted unanimously by council. She said her heart was racing over asking for the RCMP consultation.
“I’m going to publicly say I believe you’re a man of integrity,” she said to Crouse, saying the only reason for that part of her motion “is to prove it to the public.”
While Hughes wasn’t pleased the audit would be done internally, she said she’d vote for the motion, as it was the only option available.
Crouse said he’s recently reviewed all of council’s expenses and found errors, which he’d provided documentation on to each councillor privately.
“I’m really pleased that the RCMP is in it,” Crouse said, praising the procedure and policy consistency he saw in the motions.
A background report to council said an audit for the mayor going back to 2012 and council going back to October 2013 would have cost between $10,000 and $30,000.
All councillors expressed hope the audit will help lay the concern over expense errors to rest.
“I think this will be a very good compromise to finding resolution to this entire issue,” Heron said.