Unusual practice legal, but inappropriate
The municipal watchdog Grumpy Taxpayer$ wonders why the mayor and councillors have signing authority to pay the bills at the City of Langford.
“There are reasons you don’t get cheques signed by Premier John Horgan or Prime Minister Trudeau, says John Treleaven, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria.
“It seems to blur the lines between the political and administrative, and between the policy and operational functions of a municipality. A municipality is not a privately owned business and there should be no governance practice that suggests that.”
In Langford, all cheques require two signatures.
For amounts less than $50,000 any two of the following: clerk administrator, treasurer, deputy treasurer, city planner, mayor, acting mayor or a chair or vice-chair of the finance committee. For cheques more than $50,000 any two of the following: the clerk administrator, treasurer, city planner, and, the mayor, acting mayor, or chair and vice-chair of the finance committee.
Most jurisdictions allow for payments only from civil servants to ensure payments from the treasury are non-partisan. But, the signing authority practice at Langford – while uncommon – is legal.
In British Columbia, municipalities are given significant autonomy to create policies, procedures and controls for administering funds and operating in general, according to Municipal Affairs.
The Community Charter does not speak directly to signing authority and distributing funds, so it’s left up to the municipality.
Marie Watmough, manager of legal services for the city, says the signing authority practice works for Langford.
“There are no legislative requirements which would require changes to the process and to date there have not been any operational impacts which would give rise to concerns. Added Watmough, “As a busy and growing municipality we are always assessing our processes and making changes when necessary.”