If one city councillor has his way, Prince Albert’s elected officials won’t get a per diem for attending the last two council meetings.
Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick says council members should not be paid for their work during a budget meeting on Dec. 20 and a special council meeting on Jan. 7. In an interview on Tuesday, the Ward 5 councillor said the failure to approve the final budget document at a Dec. 10 meeting created unnecessary extra costs for the city.
“This is costing the city a lot of money, to have these two extra meetings,” Ogrodnick said. “(There’s) a budget meeting. You had all of admin there. You had to have the finance department there and then council (on Monday) it’s the same thing…. I just felt that it was costing the city a lot of money, and it shouldn’t have.”
Ogrodnick tried to introduce a motion at Monday’s meeting that would have city council “forgo their per diem” for those two extra meetings. However, he did not receive unanimous support so council did not debate the issue. He’s still considering whether to try and get the motion on the Jan. 28 meeting agenda.
“It doesn’t look like council wants to entertain the motion, so I’m going to have to think about what I’ll do with it,” he said.
Regardless of what council decides, Ogrodnick plans to give any per diem he receives to a local service club or non-profit. He admits it’s not a lot of money, but still hopes the motion will send a message about the proper handling of city resources.
Ogrodnick added that he’s always happy to debate issues in the council chambers, but wasn’t happy with how the 2019 budget deliberations played out. He argued that everyone got their say during two days of meetings in November, and should have accepted the result and approved the final document on Dec. 10.
“When it was a tie vote, it led to two more meetings,” he said. “I just thought, you know what, we already did this and yeah we’ll meet again and talk and everything, but I felt that we already got paid to come up with a budget.”
“The unhappiness of some councillors with the budget should have been, in my opinion, expressed and pushed forward during the (November) budget deliberations,” he continued. “Not at the last minute.”
Although the item didn’t receive unanimous support on Monday, there are a few councillors who are willing to at least consider forgoing their per diem.
Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha, one of three councillors to vote against Ogrodnick on Monday, said he simply voted no to keep council focused on the items at hand. He’s willing to discuss the issue at a later meeting, if it’s brought up.
“We wanted to get through the two items on the agenda and it probably could have led to a protracted discussion and negotiation but we’re there to get the budget through,” Botha said. “It passed (on Monday) and that was what the meeting was for.”
Botha was also one of four councillors who voted against the budget on Dec. 20. He said he wasn’t even aware he might receive a per diem for the extra meetings, and argued that council should meet as many times as needed to run the city properly.
“Ultimately to me, I don’t care whether we get paid or not to govern the city,” Botha said. “We’re there to make decisions, and if that means a committee meeting or a council meeting or an executive committee meeting, that’s what we’re appointed to do by our constituents.”
Since 2013, city councillors have been paid a per diem of $100 for a half-day of work, and $200 for a full day. To receive their per diem, councillors must fill out and submit a Per Diem Report Sheet to the mayor for authorization.
[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Evert Botha as the councillor for Ward 5. Botha represents Ward 3. This article has been changed to reflect that. We apologize for the error.]