Hawkesbury mayor will have more to spend on conventions this year
Hawkesbury Mayor René Berthiaume says he won't reimburse any of the money he overspent on conventions and special events in 2011.
In fact, council recently voted in favour of increasing the $3,000 the mayor is allotted each year for special events and conventions by $4,000 after the mayor indicated the original sum "severely limits the capacity of the mayor to adequately represent the town and carry out my duties."
During a recorded vote at a meeting held earlier this month, Berthiaume, along with councillors Michel Beaulne, André Chamaillard, Alain Fraser and Marc Tourangeau voted in favour of the increase, which brings the mayor's allowance for conventions and special events to a total of $7,000 annually. Councillors Johanne Portelance and Michel Thibodeau voted against the resolution.
At the same meeting, it was proposed that it was proposed that the amount allotted to councillors for the same purpose be increased from $1,750 annually to $3,000 annually.
Councillor Alain Fraser was the only member of council to go over his $1,750 limit this year and noted he was only able to attend two conventions with that amount.
He ended up spending more than $3,000 on convention and special events in 2011.
The motion was defeated by a vote of four to three.
It should be noted neither Berthiaume nor Fraser received consent from council to go over the amount allotted to them for those expenses.
Another resolution was brought forward to increase the amount for councillors to $2,500 annually but it was also defeated by a vote of four to three.
At the regular meeting of council held on Monday, June 25, former mayor Jeanne Charlebois challenged the increase in the mayor's convention and special event allowance.
"In 2011, you had a budget of $3,000 for those expenses and you spent more than $7,000, which represents an increase of 133 per cent," Charlebois pointed out. "Mr. Fraser, in 2011 you had a budget of $1,750 and spent more than $3,000, which means you were 71 per cent over budget."
Charlebois went on to note that in 2011, council approved a $4,500 grant for the Hawkesbury Central Food Bank. This year, the food bank will receive $5,000, which represents an increase of 11 per cent "for the most disadvantaged members of our community."
Charlebois wondered how Berthiaume and Fraser could justify a 133 per cent and 71 per cent increase in their own budgets while only giving an 11 per cent increase to the food bank.
"Mr. Berthiaume, are you prepared to refuse this increase and demonstrate to the entire community, with this symbolic gesture, that everyone, including members of council, must live within their budget?" Charlebois asked. "Especially when your own budgets are made up of taxpayer money?"
Berthiaume said he would not refuse the increase, nor would he pay back any of the money he overspent in 2011. He said the original policy was "not clear" and maintained that a budget of only $3,000 is not an adequate amount.
"This increase is necessary for the mayor to adequately represent the town," he explained. "That's why we changed the policy. I will not give money out of my pocket, but I will be diligent with my expenses. This increase represents the reality of what it costs for the mayor to represent the town properly."
There had been some speculation on a Facebook page created by Jean-Bryant Corbin, who ran for the position of councillor in the 2010 municipal election, that a number of citizens were planning to attend the meeting and call for the mayor's resignation, but that did not occur.