Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt likes to get work done over a meal.
In his ward allowance expense reports for March and April of this year, Wyatt invoiced $3,084.99 on "business meetings" at restaurants.
That's nearly 11 times higher than his nearest colleague on council. East Kildonan's Jeff Browaty charged his ward allowance $272.80 in the same period.
Ten councillors reported spending nothing on meals for the same period.
Wyatt said his Transcona ward has lots of developments in the works and he's always on the hunt for more. He said that means he dines with business people or developers.
"I want my community to be the most successful community in the city of Winnipeg," Wyatt told CBC News, adding he never lets anyone pay for his meals. "I just won't let these guys pick up the tab ... never have and never will."
Sixteen meals in his ward allowance report are connected to property and development matters. Another eight meals are connected to issues or projects in Transcona, such as the East End Community Club, Buhler Recreation Park or the Transcona Biz.
The details of the meetings and expenses along with all of the spending for city councillors can be found on the city's web site.
The Keg a Wyatt favourite
Though Wyatt's restaurant meetings are recorded as expenses in March and April 2015, the dates actually go back to November 2014.
Wyatt's favourite restaurant appears to be the Keg Steakhouse, where he spent $1,135.72 on four separate occasions. The Transcona councillor also favoured a local spot in his ward, claiming seven visits to Dal's Restaurant & Lounge on Regent Avenue.
Wyatt said he has nothing to hide about the restaurant trips and wasn't fazed he spent more than anyone on council.
"I can't speak for the rest of councillors or what they are doing or not doing, but I've got a lot in terms of development in the Transcona ward, we've got a lot of growth," he said. "[I] want to keep that growth and development happening because that creates jobs."
Follow my lead
Wyatt said he sometimes meets with out-of-town business people thinking of coming to Winnipeg and will pay for the meal. He thinks the tactic might be one other councillors should follow.
"If every councillor has that approach, I think the city will prosper," Wyatt said.
Wyatt has spent $25,645.95 of his ward allowance in the reporting period from January to April. That puts him in the higher range of spenders on council in the first four months of this year. St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes spent the most of her ward allowance at $27,050.54.
Councillors receive just under $80,000 a year each for their allowances.
The thriftiest councillor was St. Boniface's Matt Allard, who spent $15,674.74.
Where is the money going?
Councillors use their ward allowances to pay for staff, phones, stationery and ward activities. Most councillors also use their allowance to buy tickets to charitable events, such as award banquets, fundraising events and golf tournaments.
Late last year, city council changed expense rules slightly, making claims of the purchase of alcohol, meals and expenses related to meetings with city employees, councillors' staff and other members of council ineligible. Council also made buying tickets for professional sporting events and concerts ineligible.
Audit finds no issues
An audit of city councillors' ward allowances for 2014, released Thursday, found no irregularities.
It says none of the councillors overspent their limits.
The city's acting auditor, Brian Mansky, has however made some recommendations for changes.
He suggests councillors use only city-issued credit cards for official business.
Mansky wants a process in place to stop charitable organizations from issuing tax deduction receipts when councillors make donations.
An earlier version of this story said councillors' allowances were based on the number of people in each ward. In fact, each councillor receives just under $80,000 a year.Jun 19, 2015 9:18 AM CT