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Smith may have to pay for back-lane signs himself

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Coun. Harvey Smith named one of the chewed-up back lanes in his ward after Coun. Russ Wyatt, who is deputy mayor and on EPC. Smith may have to pay for the signs out his own pocket, not from public funds.

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Coun. Harvey Smith named one of the chewed-up back lanes in his ward after Coun. Russ Wyatt, who is deputy mayor and on EPC. Smith may have to pay for the signs out his own pocket, not from public funds. Photo Store

Coun. Harvey Smith could end up paying out of his own pocket for the fake street signs he posted in his ward to bring awareness to the poor condition of back lanes.

Smith (Daniel McIntyre) will have to justify the $1,600 expense at this afternoon’s session of the governance committee of council.

"I was thinking outside of the box," Smith said of the August 26 event.

Smith had street signs made up in the name of Mayor Sam Katz and the other members of his cabinet and then erected the signs at some of his ward’s worst back lanes and invited them to see for themselves the poor conditions.

Smith said Katz and the other members of executive policy committee will have a great influence on the budget and he wanted them to see the poor lane conditions.

"I submitted the expense as advertising and my definition of advertising is to make something known to the general public," Smith said this morning. "I got more publicity from it, more recognition, than if I had taken out a paid ad."

New regulations governing the spending of councillors’ ward allowances went into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Smith’s submission was questioned by the clerk’s office, which brought it to the governance committee, which has final say.

But committee chair Grant Nordman doesn’t think the spending is legitimate.

"I don’t think it’s appropriate ward allowance expense," Nordman (St. Charles) said. "It was a publicity stunt and I didn’t find it particularly funny."

Smith is a member of the committee, along with councillors Thomas Steen, Devi Sharma and Brian Mayes.

Ironically, Mayes was one of two EPC members who recently called for more spending to improve conditions in back lanes.

Nordman said that despite his personal feelings, Smith will have to make his case before all the committee members.

"In a $1.2-billion budget, $1,600 will not make or break us," Nordman said. "But, we still have to follow the rules."

Smith said he’s prepared to pay for the signs out of his own pocket, but he hopes the committee will see it as a legitimate advertising expense.

"I’m hoping they’ll approve it."

Smith’s presence on the committee could also pose another issue: whether he can vote on the matter.

Nordman said he believes Smith would be in a conflict to vote on the issue but he can’t force Smith to recuse himself.

"We’ll see if he’ll do the right thing," Nordman said.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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