Councillor Follows The Rules At SUMA Conventions
Editor’s Note - The following is a second in a series of stories looking into the expenses or more specifically the credit card purchases by Mayor Fraser Tolmie.
MJ Independent is taking no sides in this but the series was written to help hold our elected officials accountable, create a respectable public discusson as well as highlight concerns raised about the growing number of City of Moose Jaw credit cards.
Keeping with MJ Independent’s policy of publishing the good, the bad and the ugly in this article we are publishing where a councillor did follow the rules.
By Robert Thomas
Each year SUMA or the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association holds an annual convention. In 2017 the convention was held in Saskatoon and in 2018 the convention was held in Regina.
SUMA is not only a lobby group representing the interests of urban municipalities on a provincial stage but they also provide support for municipalities through such things as workshops in their conventions.
During both of these times Mayor Fraser Tolmie purchased meals for Councillor Crystal Froese and both of those times she followed the rules when it came to adjusting her expense accounts.
Under City policy regarding attending SUMA councillors are provided a daily meal allowance.
In 2017 Councillor Froese attended a meal with Mayor Tolmie and then city manager Matt Noble.
Food and drink ran to $83.47 with the total amount paid $100.16 after a 20 percent tip was applied.
A second meal happened at SUMA’s 2018 convention in Regina. The cost of the four meals was $222.40 which included alcoholic beverages. With the 20 percent tip the total amount paid for the dinner was $266.88.
The question put to Councillor Froese was given there are two meals paid for her from Mayor Tolmie’s credit card from the City of Moose Jaw did she adjust her daily meal allowance to prevent a case of double dipping?
“I did adjust my daily meal allowance to reflect the SUMA Dinners in both 2017 and 2018. I respect and comply with the City’s policies around reporting of expenses, and no rules were broken in any of the instances you cited. I am proud to represent our City at events like SUMA, where valuable information is shared regarding how to serve Moose Jaw residents and plan for our City’s future,” Councillor Froese wrote in response to emailed questions.
In a secound set of email questions regarding the costs of the meals, the alcohol, the tip were appropriate and whether or not the individual or the City should pick up the tip Councillor Froese failed to respond.
It needs to be noted at the present time there are no policies regarding tipping by elected officials nor any prohibiting the purchase of alcohol by elected officials and the City of Moose Jaw paying for it.
In his written response to emailed questions from MJ Independent Mayor Tolmie stated his credit card purchases did not violate any policy or rule.
“I am not an employee of the city but an elected official, who was elected on a mandate to positively promote the City of Moose Jaw, raise its profile and attract new economic development and jobs. I am given a budget to cover expenses and in 3 years, I have never exceeded that budget.
I take the role of this City’s Chief Ambassador very seriously. It is not a frivolous endeavour, whatsoever. I have the utmost regard for the taxpayers of this City and the businesses and organizations that make up our community. My goal is always to serve them as well as possible, and as honourably as possible.
On a very few occasions, in conducting business for the benefit of the City, or as a travel/work expense, meals have been purchased and very occasionally, people have had a wine or a beer with the meal. It happens rarely, it has never been inappropriate, and it has not broken any rules, policies or codes, at any time. There has never been a violation of the Elected Member Code of Conduct.,” Mayor Tolmie wrote regarding extensive questions into his credit card purchases.
Under the rules which apply to City employees they are allowed to give and accept gifts up to a $100 value excepting alcohol. Mayor Tolmie is not an employee of the City and the purchase of alcoholic beverages is not disallowed by any policy.
For an MLA or a government minister there are strict rules prohibiting the purchase of alcohol on their expense accounts. Despite the prohibition MLAs are allowed to drink alcohol provided by other parties such as a mayor of a city or a town.
This is what happened when the Hon Donna Harpauer then the Minister of Government Relations met with Mayor Tolmie for lunch at the Grant Hall Hotel. The cost of the meal and drinks was $102.60 and with the 20 percent tip the total bill was $123.12.
“Where you have listed a 6-ounce glass of wine being $36, it is in fact the total cost of three glasses, one for each person having a meal. Yes, one of those glasses was for the then Saskatchewan Minister of Government Relations. No Municipal or Provincial rules or codes prohibit having a glass of wine with a meal,” Mayor Tolmie wrote about the lunch meeting.
A check with a source in the provincial government confirmed there was a lunch hour meeting and three glasses of wine were consumed and no policies were broken. The wine was drank after the meeting was over. The fountain pop was consumed by the Minister’s driver.
Asked if it was appropriate to consume an expensive glass of wine when the Province and the City were in a period of tight economic times the source said the wine’s cost could also be attributed to the venue and the Minister had no choice in that.
The source also stated having a social drink and meals was just a cost of doing business.
NEXT - The Cost of Business With Chinese Investors