Mayor's expenses questioned around State of the City Address
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
At a time when Mayor Joe Fontana is continuing to ask civic departments to slash their budgets, his own spending habits have come into question.
During the finance meeting, the mayor defended a pair of expenses to the committee members. The request for greater detail on the two items — one for purchased services and the other professional fees paid to a communications consultant — came during an April 10 council meeting.
The larger of the two expenses, $32,852.21, was paid to Susan MacElroy and Associates for services such as speech research, correspondence, letters, communications resources, media invitations and virtual town hall meetings.
In the explanation contained in his report, the mayor said there was a precedent for contracting out services.
“Previous mayors have hired full time executive assistants, on contract, who have held backgrounds in communications,” Fontana wrote. “I, on the other hand, have chosen to contract an executive assistant with extensive constituency experience and, to complement her skill set, engage the services of a communications professional on an ad hock basis.”
While the committee made little note of this expense, the total cost for purchased services around the Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City Address, did raise a few eyebrows.
The mayor spent $20,727.99 on the state of the city address, including $5,638 being paid to Susan MacElroy and Associates to write the speech the mayor delivered on the day of the event. In addition, an $8,075expense for on-air productions and video services was also charged.
Ward 6 Councillor Nancy Branscombe questioned how one event could make up such a significant portion of an expense and she suggested the mayor could look at was of being more frugal. Fontana said this was the way the event had always been expensed, but that he would look for ways of being more cost-conscious in the future.
A cost of $5,850 for the London Convention Centre attracted the attention of the committee member and Ward 5 Councillor Joni Baechler. The councillor questioned if that nearly $6,000 expense was something the mayor should be paying for or should have been picked up by the chamber of commerce.
“Why are we paying the convention centre $5,849? Shouldn’t the chamber be renting that space?” Baechler said. “I realize it is an important event. I get that there are some incidentals, I just think we need, going forward, find a way to do this in a more cost-effective manner.”
Fontana said he suspected the expense was for some other purpose, but that he would check out those details with Gerry Macartney, CEO and general manager of London Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the event.
Contacted following the meeting, Macartney said there should be no question the chamber covered the cost of renting out the convention centre.
“We pay for the cost of that event, meals, staging. Any production costs would come from the city, but the costs associated with the breakfast, we paid,” Macartney said, “We have born the cost since we started the event. If the mayor needs clarification, I would welcome his call.”
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