“All we were trying to do is look at the most opportune time to hit those type of numbers, so that’s what we did,” City Finance Manager Sam Diaco said.
Mr. Diaco was speaking at a news conference outside a now-disused city hall, where supporters of city officials hosted a news conference to describe the findings of a report found that high-risk councillors accepted free meals and drinks in “highly suspicious circumstances.”
The report, titled “Impartial and Comprehensive Evaluation of Harsher Sanctions and Confidentiality Measures,” also recommended more frequent health and drug tests for councillors, and found there were no checks and balances on business referrals to the city.
One of the councillors receiving attention in the report, Mike Layton, was given a week to determine if he would continue his council duties. “I’m convinced that we have been vindicated,” Mr. Layton told CBC News.
But Wayne Bath, the city’s director of corporation services, who sent a letter to the mayor in August explaining the work and compiling the report, appeared resigned to the bleak conclusion reached by the city’s professional auditors.
“It’s not very surprising,” Mr. Bath said. “It can’t be that surprising. We’ve been expecting, all along, this to be the report, the report that comes out to deal with these issues.”
In addition to councilors paying the cost of the meals and drinks, the report estimated that there was also about $450,000 in false invoices. It was not clear from the report if any of those payments had been made, or who had been in a position to check the bill.
Mr. Bath said that some of the excess income was used to subsidize later meals, and questioned how councilors could maintain a “heavily subsidized” budget while working out of a cramped office.
“When I left I was upset that there were no kitchens and that we had to walk food into the building,” Mr. Bath said. “And now the auditor believes that there was a reasonable expectation for a reasonable cost of supplying the food and refreshments.”