A decision by Castlegar mayor Bruno Tassone to send councillor Cherryl MacLeod to an RCMP conference in Kelowna broke the city’s council travel expense bylaw.
The appointment was mentioned in passing at the April 1 council meeting during a discussion about the RCMP crime reduction report.
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff questioned the travel appointment at the time.
“Has that been brought forward through the policy?” asked Heaton-Sherstobitoff. “We have to approve anything that is out of our area.”
The mayor responded by saying, “No it hasn’t, sorry,” and then changed the topic back to the conference itself.
Tassone says he went to city staff the next morning for clarification on the bylaw.
He acknowledged he was not aware of the bylaw rules, but was just going off of what he thought he had been past practice.
“I didn’t even know about the bylaw, to be truthful,” said Tassone in an interview on Monday. “I bet 90 per cent of the councillors probably didn’t know about it.”
MacLeod also acknowledges she was not familiar with the travel rules.
“As vice chair of the public safety committee, Mayor Tassone and I are the liasons between RCMP and council,” said MacLeod.
So, when the mayor asked her to go to the Southeast District mayors and CAOs workshop with the RCMP in Kelowna she thought it seemed like an appropriate appointment, since it fit within her portfolio.
“When you are representing council at meetings directly related to the committees you represent, I had just thought — now I know wrongly — that it was sort of a given,” explained Macleod.
Tassone says from now on, all trips with travel expenses of more than $250 will come through council.
Heaton-Sherstobitoff says the mayor should have known better than to appoint a councillor to travel in the first place.
“At the start of the term, we were all given a binder with all the bylaws that are applicable to us,” she said in a follow-up interview. “We were all supposed to read them and become familiar with them.”
Tassone has now asked staff to prepare an update to the bylaw that would allow him to permit travel for himself or other councillors without going before council as long as the expenses would be less than $500.
The current bylaw allows the exception if expenses are less that $250.
The mayor says almost any overnight trip costs at least $250. He cited using up staff time preparing council resolutions as another reason to justify the increase.
Any bylaw changes would have to come before the full council for approval.