Quesnel mayor accused of double dipping

Regarding accusations of “double-dipping” Mayor Mary Sjostrom says she is following policy.

Regarding accusations of “double-dipping” Mayor Mary Sjostrom says she is following policy.

At Monday’s council meeting resident Pat Morton presented the mayor with a letter from the minister of finance outlining tax treatment of allowances for elected municipal officials.

Morton says the minister supports her allegations Sjostrom is double-dipping, pointing to the one-third tax exemption.

The exemption is to offset expenses officials incur while performing their duties, without the need of receipts.

The letter goes on to say provinces and municipalities are shifting away from the one-third tax free ruling, requiring officials to provide proof and receipt.

Thus “requiring that expense to be accounted for and directly reimbursing the elected official on the bases of actual expense incurred,” the letter continues.

Morton says Sjostrom is doing both – handing in receipts for expenses incurred, getting reimbursed and cashing in on the one-third tax free exemption.

But Sjostrom maintains the city has practices and policies in place that outline council spending and reimbursement of expenditures.

“We are following that long-time policy,” Sjostrom said.

Morton has asked Sjostrom to “simply apologize, pay back the money and move on.”

Sjostrom says she and council are trying to move on and deal with challenges the city is facing and opportunities for the community. Sjsotrom also stated the letter does not state the minister agreed with the allegations.

But Morton maintains her position, stating enjoying the state-free exemption as well as submitting receipts and being reimbursed is the definition of “double dipping” –and on the taxpayers dime.

“The allowance is to cover the same expenses every employee is allowed to claim on their tax returns and even they cannot claim their meals within the municipality when they just go out for lunch with one of their co-workers,” she said.

“Why should taxpayers pay for local politicians and management to have meals together especially as a reimbursement when the taxpayers are already giving the politicians a non-accountable expense allowance for such expenses in addition to their remuneration?”