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Risky business for SRD directors

Strathcona Regional District directors revealed during financial discussions last week that they risk their lives trying to do their jobs.

The topic came up while directors at last Thursday’s board meeting discussed whether the regional district should have a bylaw dictating when it’s appropriate to pay for a director’s overnight accommodations while travelling out of town.

Noba Anderson, Cortes Island director, put forward a motion that overnight accommodation only being considered before and after a meeting when it’s not possible, or highly unlikely, for a director to be able to get to the meeting or back home on time.

Brenda Leigh, director for Area D (Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake), said she recently chose to drive home in unsafe conditions and said while she probably shouldn’t have, that decision should be left up to the director’s discretion.

“There’s always going to be anomalies, I think it should be the call of the director if you choose to drive home like I did the other night from Strathcona Park Lodge in a snowstorm and risked my life,” Leigh said. “It was horrible.”

Jim Abram, director for Quadra and Discovery Islands, agreed.

“Discretion of the director is fine,” Abram said. “I don’t think the public in general or even the rest of the councils on this board know how many times we risk our lives to be somewhere. I know every time I jump on that beach craft I may not come home. It’s part of the job.”

Director Larry Samson, councillor for Campbell River, said he felt there should be some guidance in the form of a bylaw or policy.

“I think there should be some policy guideline,” Samson said. “I think we should have some sort of policy and not just leave it wide open to the director’s choice.”

The board decided in the end to leave overnight expenses up to the director’s discretion for one year after which time regional district staff will evaluate that practice and report back to the board.

The board also looked at pay while travelling to out of town appointments. The practise has varied between directors and while the current bylaw restricts claims to in-transit time only, directors have in the past made claims for time spent waiting for ferries or staying overnight while en route. Board chair Ted Lewis (Zeballos) said he was concerned that if the bylaw became too specific, staff would be burdened with having to double-check each director’s expense claims.

“My only issue with this whole thing is staff spending an overabundance of time verifying and calculating the trip, it speaks to the honour system of the board,” Lewis said. In the end, the board chose to have only the time spent in actual transit be eligible for compensation.

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