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This article was published 6/9/2018 (780 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Councillors on a civic committee Thursday endorsed a request for a 50 per cent increase to the budget of the City of Winnipeg’s integrity commissioner.
Council’s governance committee voted unanimously to increase the budget to $150,000 for this year from $100,000, and to refer a similar increase for next year and beyond to the 2019 budget review process.
Lawyer Sherri Walsh, who was given a two-year contract in February 2017 to take on the job as integrity commissioner, said the budget amount had been originally set in 2015, detailing in a report members of council have been frequently seeking out her advice on how to deal with provisions of the new Council Code of Conduct, in addition to her regular work.
Walsh said there is about $19,000 left in this year’s budget and, in addition to existing work, she’ll have to brief new council members elected in the Oct. 24 election on the code of conduct and her role.
Walsh’s report states council has also directed her to draft policies on fundraising by members of council and compensation for legal fees for members of council subject to an investigation under the code.
"It would appear that again this year, in fulfilling the mandate council established in 2015, and all of the tasks that fall within that mandate, there may be the need for a budget that exceeds $100,000," Walsh told the committee.
Walsh reports directly to council but is not a civic employee.
The $100,000 budget covers a $25,000 annual retainer for Walsh, in addition to being paid an hourly rate of $200. The budget also covers hourly rates for an associate and articling student who assist Walsh.
The report states the increase is to cover the cost of the work she has to do, adding she’s not seeking an increase in the hourly rates paid to herself and her legal team.
"Setting up a brand-new program is never an easy task, and even less so when you have to develop it and get the approval of 16 elected members with widely varying viewpoints," said Coun. Devi Sharma, chairwoman of the committee.
"When city council first adopted the $100,000 budget for this office, it was a best guess by our civic administration on what costs might be. Now, almost two years into the term, we now know based on actuals that there is a need to increase this budget somewhat to meet the needs of the integrity commissioner’s office and to ensure that she can continue to provide service to city council and the citizens of Winnipeg."
The committee’s endorsement will be considered by Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee at their meeting Sept. 12, with a recommendation to the Sept. 20 meeting of council.
Walsh reminded the councillors she had to seek an additional $33,000 in 2017 because of the higher-than-expected workload, and doesn’t believe the $100,000 will cover all the work she and her team will be required to do this year.
Walsh said setting the annual budget at $150,000 doesn’t necessarily mean it will be spent.
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