British Columbia

Mayoral candidate's expenses referred to RCMP, auditor by Chilliwack city council

Coun. Sam Waddington said the $17K expensed in 2017 was incurred on multiple work-related trips, and believes the move — so close to the municipal elections — is politically motivated.

Coun. Sam Waddington, who expensed $17K in 2017, says the move is politically motivated

Sam Waddington, pictured here at Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, is a Chilliwack councillor and owner of a hiking and climbing retail outlet.

A Chilliwack city councillor challenging the sitting mayor in the upcoming municipal elections has had his expenses referred to the RCMP and an independent auditor — less than a month before the vote. 

Sam Waddington, 28, is in the running for mayor against incumbent Sharon Gaetz and Coun. Ken Popove.

Gaetz told CBC News she first noticed discrepancies around Waddington's expenses in June, when she saw he had spent $17,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, compared to the $7,000 she spent as mayor.

"I found out some things that I think the public deserves to know. I cannot remember in my 22 years in council anything like this," she said.

Waddington said the expenses were incurred on multiple work-related trips, and were justified.

He said his expenses were high because he sits on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and travels more frequently than his counterparts on council.

"My advocacy work has been well founded ... and in every instance that I've spent time outside the municipality of Chilliwack I've been acting in the best interest of our community," he said.

Mayor investigates

Waddington said he thinks the decision to refer his expenses — along with the unusual move of distributing amended council minutes to media — just before the election is politically motivated.

"Honestly, I'm disappointed in the decision. I think that the motives here are pretty transparent and I think the public sees that," he said.

In amended minutes from the Sept. 4 council meeting, which the city distributed to media, Waddington lists a number of people that he met over various periods.

Gaetz said she undertook her own investigation and emailed those individuals, several of whom denied meeting Waddington.

A copy of those emails was also sent out to the media along with the release from the city, with the names of the parties redacted.

'He stayed on the city dollar at a luxury condo'

Waddington said he could not comment on the emails that appear to contradict his version of events.

"I am unable to speak to this and I wish I could. Everyone on council is muzzled on speaking to this because the matter is now before the RCMP," he said. 

But Gaetz said she was free to comment on the content of the emails.

"I can tell you that the information is my information and I'm happy to release it," she said.

"He said he was going to attend an FCM meeting but he stayed on the city dollar at a luxury condo in the heart of downtown [Ottawa] to watch the Grey Cup game."

An Instagram post by Waddington on Nov. 25, 2017 shows him attending the 2017 Grey Cup game in Ottawa.

A post from the day before shows Waddington in a meeting with Liberal MP John Aldag. Aldag is not one of the people Waddington said he met with, as per the Sept. 4 meeting minutes.

'Small distractions to very big issues'

Gaetz and Popove both recused themselves from the meeting when council voted to refer Waddington's expenses to the RCMP, citing a conflict of interest.

Gaetz said the unusual decision to send her redacted emails and amended minutes to media was a motion by council.

Waddington called the release by the city "strange."

"I think the strangeness indicates its political nature. This is not how our cities disseminate information," he said.

"I think these are small distractions to the very big issues that are happening in our community. I think this is the worst kind of politics that brings the community along for a ride."

But Gaetz said the timing is unrelated to the election.

"What has to be done has to be done ... if we uncover something that needs investigation. It's unfortunate when things come at this time. That's the way it is," she said.

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