Lacombe mayor knew the rules, says payment made in error

The mayor of Lacombe says he made a mistake when he claimed $500 for a Progressive Conservative fundraiser as a municipal expense — a manoeuvre forbidden under provincial law.

The mayor of Lacombe says he made a mistake when he claimed $500 for a Progressive Conservative fundraiser as a municipal expense — a manoeuvre forbidden under provincial law.

Steve Christie said he called deputy chief electoral officer Bill Sage of Elections Alberta on Monday to say he had charged the municipality for two tickets, at $250 each, to the Premier’s Dinner in Red Deer in 2009.

He was a Lacombe councillor at that time.

Christie said he was told formally what needed to be disclosed to Elections Alberta.

The issue came to light after the Lacombe Taxpayers Association asked for council expenses in late January through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act. The records were provided this month from Norma MacQuarrie, the city’s chief administrative officer.

Christie said he was glad the error was uncovered and that he will reimburse the municipality the $500.

“As past president of the Lacombe-Ponoka PC association, I definitely knew the rules,” he said. “It’s definitely there in black and white and my signature is on it.”

Christie said the invoice was also approved by then mayor Judy Gordon, a past MLA for the area.

“How that got through the two of us is a mystery,” said Christie.

Gordon was unavailable for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Christie said that once the error was discovered by the association, the city looked to make sure it didn’t happen anywhere else.

The taxpayers association became a citizen’s watchdog group in the fall of 2010 to monitor municipal spending.

Association treasurer Blaine Dushanek said this is the first time the group filed a FOIP request.

“This was just to check up on them and see if they are on budget with their expense accounts,” Dushanek said. “We’re hoping that (Christie) will pay it back.”

The association also questioned former CAO Ken Kendall being reimbursed $10,184 of taxpayers’ money for his MBA, which was approved in December 2007. The city’s reply was that the expense was agreed upon when he entered into his employment contract.

Publicly-funded bodies like school boards and municipalities have been barred since 2004 under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act from contributing to political parties.

Alberta’s chief electoral officer is investigating allegations that 10 Conservative riding associations either solicited or received illegal campaign funds.

Drew Westwater, director of election operations and communications for Elections Alberta, said that none of the associations can be revealed, according to the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.

“We’d like to get it wrapped up as soon as possible,” said Westwater.

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