Nova Scotia

Guysborough's new expense policy allows alcohol purchases

Municipality of the District of Guysborough has adopted new expense policies — but council and staff will still be able to buy alcohol with taxpayer money.

Warden says municipality follows a 'corporate business model' instead of a government's

Guysborough has installed a new expense policy, but that won't ban buying alcohol on the public dime. Expenses claimed for alcohol purchased will be hidden from the public, as well. (iStock)

The Municipality of the District of Guysborough has adopted new expense policies — but council and staff will still be able to buy alcohol with taxpayer money.

The purchase of alcohol was highly criticized in a CBC News investigation into Guysborough's spending practices.

"They shouldn't be allowed to expense alcohol," local resident Susanne Roy said. "They're spending taxpayers money."

After reviewing the new municipal policies, Roy wrote to both the premier and the municipal relations minister. 

She said the municipality is showing a complete disregard for its residents, and that she wants the Nova Scotia government to do a forensic audit of Guysborough's books. 

Secret drink purchases

The Guysborough council adopted four new policies in early November, including one on hospitality. It recognizes that "the provision of beer and wine for diplomacy, business development or promotional advocacy is an acceptable expense in limited circumstances."

Guysborough's hospitality policy seems to be based on the Nova Scotia government's rules for cabinet ministers. Both recommend giving preference to alcohol produced locally.

Travel expenses will be posted online on a monthly basis, but those postings will not include what's spent on alcohol.

Province forming committee

Nova Scotia's Minister of Municipal Affairs, Zach Churchill, did not respond to the call for a forensic audit. In an email to CBC, officials said the department is committed to ensuring "transparency and accountability in
municipal expenses."

The email also pointed out that the province is forming a committee with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the Association of Municipal Administrations to "strengthen and standardize municipal expense policies across the province."

The committee will look at the practice of municipal officials paying for alcohol.

'Corporate business model'

Warden Vernon Pitts would not do an interview with CBC News, but in a report in the Guysborough Journal, he defended the move.

"The [municipality of Guysborough] is not like other municipalities. We operate under a corporate business model," he said.

Warden Vernon Pitts has said Guysborough operates under a corporate business model instead of as a government. His expenses were questioned earlier this year. (CBC)

The travel expenses posted online will only cover elected officials. The policy will not apply to Guysborough's chief administrative officer, Barry Carroll, nor the economic development officer, Gordon MacDonald.

Carroll and MacDonald do most of the travelling on behalf of the municipality.

Guysborough chief administrative officer Barry Carroll won't be covered by the new expense policy. (CBC)

The newly adopted travel and expense policy also will allow councillors and employees to continue using the federal rate for mileage and meal allowances.

"So they are making more money than our provincial MLAs and that to me seems ridiculous," Roy said.

Guysborough also approved a values and ethics conduct policy.

The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman is investigating a complaint into Guysborough's spending.

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca