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Meals, mileage and media training top councillors’ expenses

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton politicians overall are continuing their spending habits in 2013, but at a slower pace than they have in their term on council.

For the last three years councillors have edged up their total spending from $43, 859.99 in 2011 to $53,721.20 in 2013.

Councillors spent the bulk of their money this year for trips on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, meals, attending community events, and mileage. But three councillors expensed the cost of getting media training from the PowerGroup communication company overseen by Laura Babcock.

Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark and Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead took the maximum three training sessions at a cost of $2,712, while Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie spent $678 for only one session concentrating on social media.

Mountain councillor Scott Duvall remains the top spender this year among politicians at 10,896.99. Nearly all of his expenses were due to representingHamiltonat FCM conferences in Windsor, Prince George, and Vancouver, British Columbia, St. John’s and Ottawa. The only other expense he submitted was $50 for a ticket to attend a Hamilton and District Labour Council dinner. In 2012 Duvall spent $10,973.53.

Whitehead placed second this year with $8,650.15 in expenses. He also attended the two FCM conferences held in British Columbia for a total of $5,252.15. In 2012, Whitehead expensed $4,284.94 and $3,733.37 in 2011.

Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson placed third among councillors with an expense tally of $5,809.98. Just like in 2012 and 2011 when Johnson spent $4,443.99 and $4,202.03, the majority of the costs the first-term councillor billed the city was for mileage. Johnson represents the second largest ward in the city that stretches from Mount Hope and Binbrook, all the way to Winona, and the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Just like Johnson, Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta, who represents the largest ward in the city, billed the city mostly for mileage. His 2013 total was $4,673.43, compared to $4,413.93 in 2012 and $3,703.37 in 2011.

Dundas councillor Russ Powers expensed $3,940.71, considerably less than the $6,638.69 he spent in 2012, and even lower than his 2011 total of $4,318.01. This year Powers represented Hamilton at the Canadian Urban Transit conferences inSt. John’s, Toronto and Calgary.

Beyond the media training sessions for Clark, who is running for mayor this fall, he expensed only $126.20 for meals. In 2012, Clark had $299.05 in expenses, while in 2011 he had a $900 expense sheet.

For the second year in a row, Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge submitted the lowest expense sheet at $30 for attending an Environment Hamilton event. Last year she had $203.20 in expenses, while in 2011, the stingy councillor didn’t submit any expenses to the city.  

Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson was also watching her nickels and dimes, expensing $573.83, which has steadily fallen over the years from $1,655.67 in 2011, to $806.59 in 2012.

Also on the low spending end was Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr at $573.83, after hitting a high mark in 2012 with a $902.78 total after a $512.80 bill in 2011.

Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie, who is also running for mayor, had one of his lowest expense totals ever at $797.46, compared to last year’s $3,239.84 expenses.

Other councillors in the middle of the pack include Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins at $1,303.69, a decline from his $2,005.63 total last year; penny-pinching Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson raised his total this year at $1,740.50 from last year’s $1,666.35 bill; Mountain councillor Tom Jackson saw a slight decrease from 2012 with a $2,305,51 bill compared to $2,416.67 in 2012 and Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla expensed only his trip to Chicago to attend a planning conference at a cost of $2,816.28. Last year he expensed $2,558.73.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Bratina, who announced he is not running for re-election, took in the Grey Cup football game inRegina, and attended the AMO conference in Ottawa for a combined cost of $4,302.44. The two trips contributed to his $6,849.20 in expenses he submitted. It was a jump from last year when he submitted a $4,521.23 bill, but similar to his 2011 expense total of $6,323.03.

Members of the audit and administrative committee approved the expenses without comment at their March 24 meeting. Politicians are scheduled to vote on the recommendation at their March 26 council meeting.

The mayor’s salary is $158,279, while councillors pulled in $88,601 in 2013. One-third of their salaries are tax free, and every year they receive a cost of living increase to their wages.

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