2020-12-23

No more Christmas cash gifts for Mahone Bay town councillors

by KEITH CORCORAN

  • <p>PHOTO COURTESY: TOWN OF MAHONE BAY WEB SITE</p><p>Councillor Penny Carver successfully proposed a motion to colleagues ending cash gifts to elected officials.</p>

Mahone Bay ended the annual tradition of taxpayer-funded $50 cash gifts to councillors at Christmas time.

Civic politicians, during a recent council meeting, agreed to "discontinue the practice ... at Christmas or at any other time of year."

Penny Carver, a long-time councillor, made several attempts over the years to end the tradition but couldn't get enough colleagues on board. Her motion passed, likely aided by the addition of new councillors during the October election who may have heard her plea for the first time.

Deputy Mayor Francis Kangata and Councillor Alice Burdick, for example, are new to the town's civic government.

"I don't know how long the practice was in place and can't recall when I first received the cash," Carver told LighthouseNOW in an email.

"What I do recall is being puzzled as to why an elected official would receive a gift of cash from the town. Because it didn't seem right, I gave my cash gift to local charity and understand that other councillors have done the same."

The cash gifts are recorded in town financial records as "council expenses" which makes the allotment less transparent to the viewing public, Carver's motion to council in early December indicated. She felt the town should be more open about this type of spending.

"Members of council have a different relationship to the town than employees who traditionally receive a gift of cash in December," Carver's motion read, in part.

While Carver takes no issue with town employees getting bonuses, gifts of money to elected officials appeared inappropriate, she told LighthouseNOW, "and it was unclear who authorized the specific expenditure."

Mayor David Devenne said $50 has been the amount for at least 12 years.

During the council meeting, streamed live on the internet, he said the matter could be quickly resolved.

"I would personally describe that as a relatively minor accounting issue that the finance manager could correct with a stroke of the pen," he said.

The town used to just give out turkeys but that practice - not exclusive to Mahone Bay - was discontinued.

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