July 17, 2019

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High cost of running a city

Trip to Russell, flowers among council expenses

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2011 (3067 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On April 7, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz spent $2,700 on a chartered airplane to attend gold-medal-winning Olympian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery's homecoming celebration in Russell.

On May 3, River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow spent $11,325 to develop and print a 24-page publication called the Community Connection Guide.

And on Oct. 29, Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan billed the city for 15 separate business meals, four Facebook ads and a pile of other expenses as part of a nearly $4,000 single-day blitz.

All of this spending appears to be legitimate. City councillors are entitled to spend approximately $72,000 a year on office supplies, salaries for assistants, printing, transportation, business meetings, computers and telephones, among other expenses. The mayor's office, which employs 10 people, has an annual budget of approximately $650,000.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2011 (3067 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On April 7, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz spent $2,700 on a chartered airplane to attend gold-medal-winning Olympian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery's homecoming celebration in Russell.

On May 3, River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow spent $11,325 to develop and print a 24-page publication called the Community Connection Guide.

 Mayor’s trip to see Jon Montgomery (above) , John Orlikow’s community guide and Russ Wyatt’s floral arrangements were among city council’s expenses in 2010.

CP

Mayor’s trip to see Jon Montgomery (above) , John Orlikow’s community guide and Russ Wyatt’s floral arrangements were among city council’s expenses in 2010.

And on Oct. 29, Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan billed the city for 15 separate business meals, four Facebook ads and a pile of other expenses as part of a nearly $4,000 single-day blitz.

All of this spending appears to be legitimate. City councillors are entitled to spend approximately $72,000 a year on office supplies, salaries for assistants, printing, transportation, business meetings, computers and telephones, among other expenses. The mayor's office, which employs 10 people, has an annual budget of approximately $650,000.

But for now, the only way to see precisely how Winnipeg's elected representatives spend their taxpayer-funded allowances is by filing a freedom of information request — a cumbersome practice opposed on principle by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Winnipeg Free Press.

In December 2009, city auditor Brian Whiteside recommended city councillors post the date, amount and location of every expense they incur online every four months to make council spending more transparent.

"Disclosure on a regular basis would remove this as a newsworthy topic," Whiteside wrote in a formal report.

Over the next 15 months, his plan bounced around several council committees. Finally, on Jan. 17, council's secretariat committee voted to bring the disclosure plan to council — but not until March 23.

The Free Press promptly filed a freedom of information request for all council and mayoral expenses incurred in 2010. The results, released by the city clerk's office free of charge last week, reveal everything from mundane spending to unusual quirks.

For example, Transcona's Russ Wyatt spent more than any of his colleagues on business meetings ($4,321) in 2010, while former Old Kildonan councillor Mike O'Shaughnessy, who retired in October, racked up the highest auto-allowance expense ($8,627).

John Orlikow’s community guide was among city council’s expenses in 2010.

John Orlikow’s community guide was among city council’s expenses in 2010.

Katz spent $2,900 on a December luncheon at Hu's Asian Bistro — a restaurant he owns — for councillors, city department heads and their families. His April charter to Russell, however, also covered the cost of transporting police Chief Keith McCaskill and an MLA, mayoral spokesman Brad Salyn said.

Orlikow's Community Connection Guide, meanwhile, is intended to provide organizational assistance to "individuals, groups, neighbourhoods and associations" in his ward.

"In my experience, relationships developed through volunteering, sports and interest clubs, group activities for infants, seniors and everyone in between makes neighbourhoods stronger, safer, and healthier," Orlikow said Monday via email.

And Pagtakhan's $4,000 spending spree on Oct. 29, which included meals at the Golden Terrace, Clay Oven, Pampanga and KFC, was the result of filing multiple expenses on a single day, he said.

"I was famished after the election and I wanted to go out and drown myself in food," he joked last week. "Seriously, we were probably catching up. Those were made over a period of time. If I could do that, I would have a tremendously good metabolism and they should check my DNA."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

 

Your tax dollars at work

That's one way to connect with constituents

The consultation and printing tab for a 24-page Community Connection Guide commissioned by River Heights Coun. John Orlikow: $11,325.

From one former councillor to another

Spending by now-retired Old Kildonan councillor Mike O'Shaughnessy on consulting services provided by former Transcona councillor Shirley Timm-Rudolph: $7,000.

Russ Wyatt’s floral arrangements were among city council’s expenses in 2010.

Russ Wyatt’s floral arrangements were among city council’s expenses in 2010.

He brings you flowers

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt's tab at Transcona Florists in 2010, mostly for gift baskets and funeral wreaths: $4,589.79.

You wanna make something out of it?

Spending by St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal on a Pan Am Boxing expansion: $4,000.

Must have been a heck of a day

Spending by Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan on Oct. 29, 2010, according to his expense records: $3,998.24.

When you absolutely must get to Russell

Cost of Mayor Sam Katz's Fast Air Executive Aviation Services charter to Russell, Man., to attend Olympian Jon Montgomery's homecoming celebration: $2,701.85.

Hu's restaurant? His restaurant!

Spending by Mayor Sam Katz's office on a staff and council Christmas luncheon at Hu's Asian Bistro, which the mayor owns: $2,914.89.

Interesting career move

 Mayor Sam Katz spent nearly $3,000 on a staff and council Christmas luncheon at Hu's Asian Bistro, which he owns.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Mayor Sam Katz spent nearly $3,000 on a staff and council Christmas luncheon at Hu's Asian Bistro, which he owns.

Spending by St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel on website maintenance conducted by Ryan Craig, former chief of staff to Mayor Katz: $476.19.

Now why would you support that?

Spending by St. James Coun. Scott Fielding on a university journalism conference: $100.

Seriously?

Late payment charges incurred by Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith for Rogers and Telus wireless services: $20.49.

Biggest restaurant bills

Top five council spenders on business meetings in 2010:

1. Russ Wyatt (Transcona): $4,321.05.

2. Gord Steeves (St. Vital): $4,121.21.

3. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas): $2,204.17.

4. Mike O'Shaughnessy (Old Kildonan, January to October): $2,160.20.

5. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface): $1,799.48.

No meals for them

Councillors who reported no business meeting expenses in 2010: Former Charleswood councillor Bill Clement, St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman and Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith

Biggest auto bills

Top five council spenders on auto allowances in 2010:

1. Mike O'Shaughnessy (Old Kildonan, January to October): $8,626.88.

2. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert): $8,125.93.

3. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan): $7,013.16.

4. Russ Wyatt (Transcona): $6,118.32.

5. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface): $5,833.10.

Mayor's office

Total automobile allowance for mayoral staff in 2010: $13,185.93

Total restaurant purchases in 2010 (including Christmas luncheon): $4,327.44.

— Compiled by Bartley Kives, Jen Skerritt

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