City council's governance committee this week rebuffed a request to put Mayor Sam Katz's discretionary spending under the scrutiny of the city auditor. The committee said it plans to review the mayor's spending itself, along with the use of all councillors' ward allowances.
The controversial $116,000 ward allowances are audited, and councillors Paula Havixbeck and John Orlikow argued so should the mayor's own discretionary spending, along with the extra $7,000 each executive policy committee member gets for chairing other committees.
The governance committee should not just look at whether spending conforms to the rules, but at the rules themselves. The mayor can use his discretionary funds, which run to hundreds of thousands of dollars, for a variety of broad purposes, including for anything "the mayor considers in the interest or to the advantage of the city or its citizens."
It is debatable the mayor should have control over such large discretionary funds of half a million or more to cast about town. But the criteria should be narrow and well-defined, and not so open-ended to render audits or reviews almost meaningless. Further, all spending of the mayor and councillors ought to be publicly posted, with detailed receipts, so taxpayers can see specifically where and why their money was spent.