Detailed Grant mayoral expenditure to be released

EXPENDITURE LIST: Grant District mayor Richard Sage’s expenditure will be detailed and presented elected members each quarter after council backed a motion in an attempt to increase transparency and accountability.

By Raquel Mustillo

FIRST-TERM Grant District councillor Megan Dukalskis says she is “bolstered and buoyed” after elected members unanimously backed a motion requiring a detailed list of mayor Richard Sage’s ratepayer-funded expenditure.

But Mr Sage said the motion – moved by Councillor Megan Dukalskis – challenged the integrity of council’s auditor and questioned whether the move was an attempt to “harass, bully or discredit me… and the position I hold as mayor.”

At last night’s council meeting, Cr Dukalskis sought support for a motion ordering a detailed list of all mayoral expenditure for the last financial year, including elected member expenses and “any other expenses” in an attempt at increasing transparency and accountability.

The motion also called for ratepayer-funded mayoral expenses to be presented to council on a quarterly basis.

Mr Sage questioned the intent of the motion in a lengthy preamble and said it was not possible to “drill down on mayoral costs”.

“In regards to the motion, you realise you are questioning council’s new auditor’s integrity on the investigations audit and reporting process,” she said.

“Can you please explain if this is another attempt to harass, bully, discredit me or just plain insult me and the position I hold as mayor and the work I undertake on behalf of ratepayers of the Limestone Coast?”

Cr Dukalskis said mayoral expenditure information difficult to access and did not include all expenses incurred by elected members.

The qualified accountant claimed Grant’s online register of interest and benefits documents, which contains details about elected member’s income sources, was incorrect until last week.

“It only includes allowances, communication and mileage – it doesn’t include all expenses,” Cr Dukalskis said.

“It’s not an accurate reflection and it’s very hard for ratepayers to see where their money is being spent.

“In an effort to increase transparency, I believe we should detail what the mayor’s and elected members expenses are.”

Cr Dukalskis also asked whether Mr Sage had considered declaring a conflict of interest in the matter, referring to a recent Ombudsman ruling which found the mayor had failed to declare a conflict of interest while discussing mayoral allowances.

Mr Sage said he did not have a conflict, saying “if that’s the case, all elected members have a conflict of interest because you’ve mentioned all elected members”.

Cr Dukalskis told The Border Watch she was encouraged by the support of all councillors in attendance who supported the motion.

“This expenditure has been blurred in with other expenses in the financial statements,” she said.

“It is ratepayer money and not that of elected members and it is pleasing to see that all of council thinks the same way and wishes to move forward accordingly.”

The Border Watch attempted to contact Mr Sage numerous times for comment.