Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Councillor let off hook for signs

Smith won't have to pay $1,600 cost

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Coun. Harvey Smith 'named' an alley in his ward after deputy mayor Russ Wyatt.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Coun. Harvey Smith 'named' an alley in his ward after deputy mayor Russ Wyatt. Photo Store

Inner-city ward councillor Harvey Smith walked out of a committee room smiling Friday after getting his fake-street-sign expenses paid for by city hall.

"I was worried," Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said. "You never know how these things are going to go."

Smith was questioned about his decision to install fake street signs named after Mayor Sam Katz and members of executive policy committee in his ward's worst laneways in August.

Smith said he installed the signs because all but one councillor on EPC is from the suburbs and they all need to know what's happening in inner-city neighbourhoods as they work on the 2014 budget.

Smith's $1,600 sign expense had been red-flagged by the city clerk's office, which questioned whether it met spending criteria for councillors' ward allowances that went into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Smith's council colleagues on the governance committee didn't support his fake signs as a $1,600 ward expense, but the majority were willing to approve it.

The committee voted 3-1 to approve the expense, with Smith abstaining from voting.

"I don't think it meets the (spending criteria), but I'm prepared to give you a mulligan on this one," said Coun. Grant Nordman (St. Charles), who chaired the committee.

Coun. Brian Mayes, a member of EPC, said he thought the decision to question the expense was "nitpicking" and congratulated Smith on his imagination in drawing attention to a serious infrastructure problem.

Couns. 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 were devised by the city auditor's office, are too narrow in their definition, adding the fake street signs were more successful than any paid advertising campaign.

Smith said he recognized 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."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 B3

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Updated on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:19 AM CDT: replaces photo

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