ARICHAT: Concerns from four members of Richmond County’s municipal Policy Committee, including an elected councillor and three members of the public, have delayed the municipality’s efforts to approve a new Travel and Expense Policy that would see municipal expense claims posted on-line.

Although Richmond Warden Brian Marchand and councillor Alvin Martell initially suggested that the new policy should receive formal approval at this week’s regular council meeting in Arichat, councillors eventually voted 4-0 to defeat the motion in the wake of comments from councillor James Goyetche and three of the Policy Committee’s members-at-large.

According to Goyetche and the committee members who spoke at the March 27 meeting, one final committee meeting is required to review changes that were made to the policy following a mid-February meeting of the committee. While interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Maris Freimanis suggested that the revised policy did not draw any criticisms or concerns after it was e-mailed to all committee members, Goyetche suggested that further review is required.

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“There are some things in that draft that I want to go through,” Goyetche declared. “I don’t care if we spend six months on policies for Richmond County. We’ve got to make sure that what we do is the right thing.”

James Goyetche

Following comments from three county residents who serve as members-at-large for the Policy Committee, Deputy Warden Jason MacLean agreed that these committee members’ concerns must be taken into account.

“In fairness to the people who we are asking to come on board and join committees, we’ve heard from three members-at-large that are stating that they want to have another meeting to get together on this, and I think we need to respect that,” MacLean told the council session.

Jason MacLean

Conversely, Freimanis suggested that the committee had given the new policy the required amount of attention after municipal councillors tabled the policy at their regular meeting in February.

“What we understood, and part of the concern for tabling, was the issue… that revolved around the issue of meals claimed for which a cost was incurred. That was changed, and that sentence was removed, and it basically continued on with a particular clause that said meals provided free of charge and that were included in registration fees paid directly to the municipality are ineligible for reimbursement,” Fremanis recalled.

“That, again, was sent around to everybody for comment. As far as I’m concerned, the policy has been fully vetted by the committee members, has been fully vetted by our administration and the directors, and we are prepared now to say, ‘This policy is ready for council’s public debate on the value of what’s contained.'”

Maris Freimanis

Prior to the vote, Warden Marchand suggested that Policy Committee members still had the option to revisit the Travel and Expense Policy at the committee level, even if it received approval at a formal council session.

“The committee [can] meet again and make the change – we can amend it,” Marchand insisted.

“I just want to get the expenses on-line, but it’s up to council about what they want to do.”

Brian Marchand
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Adam Cooke has been a staff writer and columnist for The Reporter since 1999. A native of L’Ardoise, Adam lives in Port Hawkesbury with his wife Cathy.