Letters: Perks and credit card out of control

Questions are asked about the CAO's expense account

Rumours  have Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)) Evan Parliament on an extended vacation. To someone who has reviewed District of Sooke Visa expenditures, an ‘extended vacation’  seems well within the realm of possibility, given the CAO’s preference for early arrivals and late departures.

Through a Freedom of Information request to the District in 2009, I received all the information needed to reach the conclusion that credit card use was out of control, and that the CAO was leading the way. Consider this example from his Visa records: May 20, 2009,  $588.88 to Westjet for an ICMA conference in Montreal (Sept.11-17), no receipt; June 24, $1,543.55, registration for ICMA conference (Sept.13-16). Already his plane is arriving two days early, and departing a day late. But wait, the best is yet to come. He enjoys it so much he doesn’t check out of the Delta Centre-Ville  until September 20, when he uses the district’s Visa and ponies up $2,122.44 of our money.  The ICMA website states that lecture dates are the 14th and 15th, with a day on each side for travel.  Evan Parliament  checked into the hotel on September 11th and checked out on the 20th. He definitely had an ’extended vacation’ on that occasion.

While Mr. Parliament’s conference travels provide examples of creative spending, they hardly hold a candle to his ferry rides, Vancouver conferences and gas purchases.  Again, one example is sufficient to make the case for credit card use gone crazy.  On March 22, 2010, a charge of $58.50 was recorded for the ferry from Swartz Bay to an Economic Development Workshop in Vancouver. On the same day a charge of $62.85 was recorded  at a PetroCan in Peachland, against the same workshop in Vancouver. On March 23rd a charge of $58.50 for the ferry from Tsawwassen is made against the workshop, and the following day a $7.00 charge for something called ‘Impark’ is made, also against the workshop. It would not be worth questioning if it weren’t for that jaunt from Vancouver to Peachland to fill the gas tank.

District records show that taxpayers have paid enough in ferry fares for the CAO to traipse across the pond, that we should demand the next deluxe ferry to be built be christened with a bottle of Sooke Harbour Brine, and be named after our community.  Along with the ferry fares, we have generously provided enough full tanks of gas to ensure he reaches his destination. This is strange though, because when on District of Sooke business the CAO is paid mileage. Oh well, what’s another few hundred dollars.  We have also been more than generous with meals, anytime, anywhere, alone, with friends or with groups of friends.  We even treated him in a place called Blind Bay, in July, 2009, where he spent close to $300 in such establishments as Duffers Den, Friends Bayshore Marina, and the Sportsman Blind Bay Store; and all this while he was on holidays.

Both the CAO’s contract and the District Purchasing Policy require that receipts be presented before any expenses are reimbursed.  This includes those racked up on District of Sooke credit cards.

In 2009, Mr. Parliament recorded close to $2,900 in expenditures which are accompanied by the words ‘No Receipt.’  Incidentally, these include the Blind Bay excursion.

If I sound angry, it is because every attempt I made to have these matters dealt with, was stonewalled.  The mayor of the day, Janet Evans, had the same comment for each issue I raised.  She said ‘So?’

As I watch the diligent work of Mayor Milne and the Finance and Administration Committee chaired by Rick Kasper, I wonder if finally someone might pay attention.  If they do, it will have been worth the wait and the frustration.

Gail Hall

Sooke

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