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Guysborough warden says pressure didn't lead to new spending policies

The warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough says changes to municipal expense policies in 2016 were not done in response to public pressure.

Municipal councillors approved the revisions at a special meeting in November, shortly after October's municipal elections.

Officials say they're now covered by a tighter, more comprehensive single travel and expensive policy.

In a year-end interview with The Hawk, Vernon Pitts, Guysborough's warden, says the changes did not come about as a result of pressure from residents or media members.

"Media pressure (and) public pressure had relatively nothing to do with policies in regards to expenses (and) entertaining," he says. "This was on the radar screen six-to-eight months prior to the public even raising it- our policies and bylaws are examined continually."

Pitts says the municipality's chief administrative officers is now required to post his expenses online, along with all elected officials; the CAO wasn't required to when the changes were first implemented.

He says he expects to have the provincial Ombudsman's report into municipal expenses early in the New Year.

Pitts says the Ombudsman visited Guysborough, and interviewed every councillor and senior staff member in November.

He says a lot of information was requested, and it was all made available.

Pitts tells The Hawk they'll decide how to proceed with the report once it's finished and in their hands.

"It just depends what the recommendations are- we don't to make a knee-jerk reaction here," he says. "I'm of the opinion we should give a sober second thought to whatever we do- I don't anticipate any major problems when this report is released."

Pitts says municipal councillors and officials have done nothing wrong, but they may find ways to improve the way they conduct day-to-day business.

He says councillors received a major endorsement in the 2016 municipal elections.

There are eight districts in the municipality- all eight incumbents were either acclaimed or re-elected in October.

Pitts says the voters spoke loud and clear.

"Now we've got a resounding mandate (from) our residents- all eight (councillors) returned," he says. "It's going to be status quo as we continue forward- I don't foresee any major changes in the way our council does business."

Pitts says the return of all eight councillors is not a sign of disengagement with municipal politics.

He says councillors are the first level of contact with residents when there's a problem.

You can listen to the entire year-end interview with Pitts below.

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