St. Mary’s council seeks clarity on mileage issue

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S—Council for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s is seeking greater clarity from municipal staff on what constitutes allowable mileage expenses for representatives conducting business in the course of their duties.

The issue arose at the regular council meeting on Sept. 12, following a discussion by its audit committee on the definition of “personal reasons” for mileage, which Warden Greg Wier found vague. “It’s just that there is a grey area in there that may come back to bite us in the future,” he said.

“There are a couple of wordings that just … under the general expense level travel conditions that are just not sitting right with me,” he noted. “It’s just my opinion, and it may not be the opinion of council, I really think we need a definition under ‘definitions’ for personal reasons or personal business. I just don’t think it’s very defined.”

He added: “I did look it up under definitions, under the different things on the legal side of it, and just the regular definition under the dictionary. And it is very distinct as to what personal reasons are. There’s really no grey area in it. I think leaving that just like that, without a definition, is leaving some gray area [and] we could be called upon to explain at a later date.”

In the Municipal Government Act, the sections on expenses and expense recovery procedures for public officials — which are long, complicated and not always clear — stipulate that “each municipality and village must adopt a written policy.”

On travel, the 2021 Financial Reporting and Account Manual of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing states that, while municipalities in the province are expected to establish guidelines respecting mileage claims, they must also “prohibit the use of petty cash for travel, require all travel related expenses to be reported on an expense claim,” and “not reimburse individuals who are not a reportable individual or an employee of the municipality or village.”

The St. Mary’s warden, deputy warden and councillors are compensated for travel to and from meetings, conferences and workshops, according to the “federal floating rate.”

Said Wier: “I really do think that we should maybe get staff to look into it and bring it up at the next committee of the whole meeting. Just that one recommendation … We can look up a true definition of what personal reasons [are]. Maybe ‘personal business’ would be better to [narrow the definition].”

Council voted to approve the recommendation.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal