Inner-city ward councillor Harvey Smith walked out of a committee room smiling this afternoon, after getting his fake street sign expenses approved as a ward expense.
"I was worried," Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said. "You never know how these things are going to go."
Smith was being questioned for his decision to install fake street signs named after Mayor Sam Katz and members of executive policy committee and then posted the signs in his ward’s worst laneways.
Smith said he did it to draw attention to the poor condition of the laneways, adding he hoped Katz and EPC find appropriate funds for the 2014 budget to do something about it.
Smith’s council colleagues on the governance committee clearly weren’t in support of his fake signs as a $1,600 ward expense but the majority were willing to approve it.
"I don’t think it meets the (spending criteria) but I’m prepared to give you a mulligan on this one," Coun. Grant Nordman (St. Charles), who chaired the committee, said.
Smith’s expense had been red-flagged by the city clerk’s office, which questioned whether it met spending criteria for councillor ward allowances that went into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The committee voted 3-1 to approve the expense, with Smith abstaining from voting.
Coun. Brian Mayes, a member of EPC, said he thought the decision to question the expense was "nitpicking," adding he congratulated Smith on his imagination on drawing attention to a serious infrastructure problem.
Councillors Thomas Steen (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) said they didn’t believe the expense met the criteria but only Sharma voted against approving the expense.
Following the committee meeting, Smith said the spending criteria, which had been devised by the city auditor’s office, was too narrow in its definition, adding the fake street signs were more successful than any paid advertising campaign.
Smith said he recognized that the committee is unlikely to approve another fake street sign expense.
"I wouldn’t do the same thing over again and again," Smith said. "Everything I do is unique."