Directors debate new CSRD expense policy

Travel and expenses fuelled more than an hour of discussion at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Electoral Area Directors meeting

Travel and expenses fuelled more than an hour of  discussion at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Electoral Area Directors meeting Aug. 7.

The corporate policy, adopted in 1981 and never amended, was presented by CSRD staff at the July 17 regional district board meeting, but deferred at the request of the rural area directors, who said the policy affects them more than the municipal directors.

Finance manager Jodi Kooistra sought amendments on the policy that affects both staff and directors because there are currently no guidelines that set limits on meal expenditures, room upgrades or partner programs. As well, there is a lack of consistency in how expense claims are processed.

Kooistra made clear that meal expenses for business outside of CSRD limits are on a strictly per diem basis. Within CSRD limits, detailed receipts are required to prevent fraudulent use of the per diem.

“We’re not trying to be food and beverage Nazis but we want to get the GST back and without getting original receipts showing what was purchased and when, we can’t,” she said. “The per diem gives a high degree of accountability.”

But Area D director René Talbot and Area C director Paul Demenok were not in favour of a per diem anywhere.

“When it comes to meals, I always try to get itemized receipts,” said Talbot. “On occasion I’ve lost them and if I can’t find them, I eat the bill.”

“I think the travel and expense policy needs to be tight,” added Demenok. “I don’t like per diem because it could be interpreted that directors are being paid. I don’t like that tone and I think we should have receipts for everything.”

Demenok later agreed to a per diem but suggested it be $80 per day within CSRD boundaries, and $100 out of town to accommodate often higher costs.

Following a spate of questions and comments regarding directors’ responsibility in choosing the cheapest mode of transportation, hotels and meals, Kooistra reiterated the policy declares directors and staff are expected to “utilize the most cost-effective method of travel considering time, convenience and safety.”

Chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton confirmed CSRD has access to government rates.

“What is difficult, is people like to make their own travel arrangements, or decide where they want to stay,” he said. “People go out and book a room at a higher rate, and this got to the point we were seeing such discrepancies with conference rates compared with what some of the directors were incurring.”

In terms of air fare, Hamilton advised directors he would have no problem approving a fully refundable economy fare.

“We don’t think you should have to dig into your own pockets, but, at the same time, we don’t think you should fill your pockets at CSRD expense.”

This did not sit particularly well with area F director Larry Morgan.

“I would think the previous policy didn’t need fixing, but do think it needed better definition,” he said. “I thought there was some latitude in claims and how they were paid and I think we’re starting to nit pick…Regardless of what has been said in the press, I don’t think any one of us has been pulling a fast one.”

Morgan had been under the impression that directors were expected to have significant others accompany them to conferences and take part in partner programs at taxpayers’ expense. He was visibly angry to hear it would be up to staff and directors to pay such expenses themselves.

“My wife is on the phone constantly with people; she’s taking calls – some not so positive, directing people or taking messages and, to me, it’s a slap in the face to people like my wife…” he said. “I want to see a policy to accommodate the efforts of spouses.”

Area A Rural Revelstoke Loni Parker agreed with Morgan, calling her husband an adjunct to her role as director.

“It is disheartening when your gonna cut off half of you in the community,” she said. “I think it should be decided by directors.”

Switching gears, Talbot asked that as electoral area directors are most affected, the travel and expense policy should pertain only to the EAD.

But Kooistra noted there is no language in staff’s unionized contracts to cover travel and expenses, and Area E director and chair of the meeting Rhona Martin pointed out that expenses of municipal directors who are appointed to certain committees are paid by CSRD.

“This policy affects everybody and I hope this fulsome discussion will happen at the whole board meeting,” noted Martin, who was absent from the July 17 board meeting. “I think most of us have been playing within the rules but this just gives clarity.”

The directors agreed unanimously to forward the policy to the board for further discussion.


Just Posted

Avalanche control scheduled tomorrow on Highway 1 east of Revelstoke

Avalanche control work is scheduled along Highway 1 on Dec 15. From… Continue reading

Highlights from recent school board meeting in Revelstoke

Soon-to-arrive Syrian family, budget update, and upcoming silent action were discussed

Okanagan College unlocks time capsule

Items placed in 1993 and kept in capsule in library opened at special ceremony

Special Public Avalanche Warning for Most Mountainous Regions of BC

Avalanche Canada is issuing a Special Public Avalanche Warning for recreational backcountry… Continue reading

Revelstoke developer frustrated with permit delays

Phase 2-3 of Mackenzie Village has been with city staff for 18 months

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Final phase of Kelowna hospital cardiac centre completed

Finishing new recovery rooms last stage of $381 million project

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Most Read