Mahone Bay's chief executive, Dylan Heide, declared a conflict-of-interest, declining to lead discussion of a report recommending town council write-off more than $3,000 in uncollectible accounts.
It was unusual move given senior managers are ineligible to vote to accept or decline the finance manager's advice concerning 2020-21 write-offs, but Heide handed the matter off to Maureen Hughes, the town's deputy chief administrator.
Civic politicians authorized the write-offs by unanimous vote.
Heide did not state during the late March council meeting why he made the declaration, but explained it recently to LighthouseNOW "one of the account holders referenced ... is a relative of mine ..."
Of the 17 accounts listed in the report, the single largest amount is $1,386.65. This total represents electricity and water charges owed by Kaleigh Heide, who the chief administrator confirmed via email is related to him. The report indicates "moved out of town" as a reason the account is unpaid, but notes it is "sent to the Province of Nova Scotia for collection."
The report from Mahone Bay finance manager Luke Wentzell was not part of council's open session agenda package but was provided to LighthouseNOW through the town's routine access policy.
"Technically, it's not private information but we try to use discretion," Hughes said during the council meeting when asked by a councillor about the availability of the information to the public.
Mahone Bay reviews outstanding accounts at year end to determine chances of collection, according to Wentzell's written document.
"Outstanding amounts with low chance of collection are sent to the province. If the province is successful in collecting payment, the town will receive a portion of the funds received," notes the document. "However, as the chance of collection is low, the town's auditors require that these amounts be written-off as not to overstate receivables at year end."
The amount totalled $3,235.77, representing the lowest overall figure since 2014-15.
Back in 2018-19, the write-off was over $36,000, with taxes making up most of that amount.
Councillor Joseph Feeney was impressed with the low 2020-21 figure and put it into context.
"Our doubtful accounts are incredibly low as a percentage of the overall revenue and services we provide. The vast majority of these doubtful accounts are under $100," Feeney explained during the council meeting live-streamed on the internet.
Two of the accounts showed under a dollar owed to the town; one of those was for 17 cents.
"There's a cost of collecting and there is a law of diminishing returns, so, at some point ... the cost of collecting becomes more than the accounts receivable," said Feeney.