The board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District wants a more in-depth staff report on the policy regarding directors’ business expenses after a lengthy discussion at the board meeting on July 28.
Staff had brought forward an updated draft policy for the board to consider, but the auditor’s recommendation that directors’ business expenses be signed off by the chair of the board and the chair’s expenses be signed of by the board’s vice chair dominated much of the discussion of the issue at the table.
Shawnigan Lake director Sierra Acton, who is the current vice chair of the board, said she doesn’t feel comfortable with having the responsibility of approving the chair’s expenses, and she doesn’t intend to take on that role.
She said the responsibility of approving board members’ expenses should be handled by someone who is not on the board, like the CVRD’s CAO or its finance department.
“I don’t want to do it,” Acton said.
“It’s not part of my role and never has been part of my role. It doesn’t seem like good decision making to me.”
Natalie Wehner, the CVRD’s chief financial officer, said it was a recommendation of the district’s auditors that the chair’s expenses be approved by the vice chair and the directors’ expenses be approved by the chair.
“This is a case of best practices because you don’t want subordinate positions signing off on expenditures,” she said.
“For example, it would be like my staff signing off on my expenditures. You wouldn’t want to be in that difficult situation.”
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Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said that, with all due deference to the CVRD’s auditors, he’s posed this question to a number of other elected officials who replied that the notion of them approving the expenses of other elected officials is not a best practice and has the potential for abuse.
“I’m not talking about the current players on the board, but it isn’t a good idea to have politicians approving the expenditures of other politicians,” he said.
“I’ll support this recommendation, but I guarantee you this is going to come back to bite us, maybe not in the near term but it’s just not a good idea.”
The board decided to ask staff to provide a comprehensive report on directors’ business expense policies that clearly explains what expenditures are allowed and what aren’t.