Residents of HRM don’t need to worry about their municipal councillors expensing high-priced electronics, emergency generators or fancy new office furniture, said one city official yesterday.
Cathie Barrington, manager of HRM’s Councillor Support Office, said HRM’s 23 councillors are subject to the same expense-claim procedures as every other city employee. That means they can submit receipts for work-related purchases and will get a cheque reimbursing them a few weeks later. No allowances. No additional expense accounts.
“It’s completely different than the province, but pretty standard for municipalities across the country,” Barrington said. “And generally, it’s very tight. It’s not like people are coming to me with crazy purchases like cameras or furniture.”
Barrington said she’s been fielding questions all week about how — and when — councillors can dip into the municipal coffers in the wake of a massive expense scandal that has rocked the provincial legislature. Several former and current MLAs are now struggling to dig their way out from under an avalanche of accusations that they misused public money.
According to Coun. Gloria McCluskey, there’s not much chance of a similar fiasco coming out of city hall.
“They don’t give us any money to begin with,” she laughed. “The money they get (at the provincial level) is just outrageous.”
McCluskey, who was actually picking up her expenses cheque yesterday, said she rarely claims anything except mileage on her vehicle. Barrington said that’s true of most councillors.
“They do a have a computer, a BlackBerry and a cellphone that is issued to them, but those items are returned once they’re finished,” she said.