Lethbridge City Council spent $172K on travel 2017–2019

The City of Lethbridge recently published city council travel expenses. I collected and graphed the data for the last 3 years.

The City of Lethbridge recently published travel expenses for the mayor and city councillors. I decided to collect and graph the data since 2017, when the current city council was put in place.

Before we get into the graphs, let’s highlight some larger numbers.

Combined, all city council members spent $62,338 for travel and per diem expenses in 2017, $55,098 in 2018, and $55,048 in 2019. They spent $172,484 over the entire 3-year period.

They had budgeted a combined $94,500 for 2017, $112,000 for 2018, and $112,000 for 2019. (Although Campbell and Crowson had prorated budgets in 2017, since they were elected in only the last quarter of 2017). That comes to $318,500 for the entire 3-year period.

They spent about 66% of their combined travel and per diem budgets in 2017 and about 49% in both 2018 and 2019. If you calculate their spending for the entire 3-year period, it comes to about 54% of their travel and per diem budgets.

Now onto the graphs.

I graphed total expenses for each council member, total per diem for each council member, number of events attended, both total expenses and total per diem each council member spent per event, per diem per day, and finally 3-year averages per event for travel and per diem, as well as 3-year averages for per diem per day.

Total travel expenses

In this graph, you can see that the mayor, Chris Spearman, claimed the highest in total travel expenses for each year. That makes sense, given that the mayor often attends more events than councillors do (which you’ll see below).

For councillors, Blaine Hyggen was highest in 2017, Belinda Crowson and Rob Miyashiro were more or less tied for highest in 2018, and Hyggen was highest again in 2019, but just barely.

Joe Mauro claimed expenses just in 2018, but he attended only 1 event: IMCL – Making Cities Livable in Ottawa. While it appears as though Ryan Parker claimed no expenses in 2019, his expenses were simply so low, they appear as just a yellow sliver on the chart. He attended 2 events and claimed a total of $72.38 in that year.

Total per diem expenses

Despite having the highest travel expenses, Spearman came in at the lowest for per diem.

Once again, Hyggen comes in the highest. Jeff Carlson comes in second highest, and much higher than the other 6. Mauro claimed per diem only in 2018, and again for the one conference, at about $280 per day.

Other than that, everyone else is more or less around the same amount each year, except for Coffman, who claimed about the same as Spearman.

Number of events

As I mentioned earlier, Spearman, as mayor, attended far more events than the councillors did, an average of 32 per year.

Other than Carlson in 2018, all councillors attended fewer than 10 events per year. As I already pointed out, Mauro attended just one for all 3 years.

Average expenses per event

If we average travel expenses over the number of events city council members attended, we see some interesting numbers.

First, even though he has the highest travel expenses, Spearman’s per event average is the lowest.

Second, Mauro’s average is the highest, but I don’t think we should read too much into it. I’d consider this data point an outlier.

Finally, Mark Campbell has the highest average in 2019. Even though the other two years are middle of the pack, if you average the 3 years together, he claimed about $1,430 per year, the second highest average. The highest three-year average is Miyashiro, at $1,519.

Average per diem per event

Unsurprisingly, Spearman comes in lowest for average per diem per event expenses, given that he claimed the lowest per diems overall and attended the most events.

Also not surprising is Mauro’s placement, given that his per diem is for a single event.

While their averages for 2017 and 2018 were on par with everyone else, it’s interesting that Campbell’s and Parker’s 2019 per diems were significantly higher than the others, as well as their own from the previous two years.

Crowson and Jeff Coffman kept their average per event fairly low for all 3 years.

Average per diem per day

When you calculate the average per diem expenses charged per day, Spearman, once again, ends up the lowest.

Other than Coffman (who was significantly lower than the others) and Miyashiro (who was significantly higher than the others), the average per diem per day in 2017 was around the same for everyone. Well, except Mauro, of course.

In 2018, per day claims climbed, with 7 council members claiming $200 a day or higher. Campbell and Mauro each claimed over $300 a day.

Finally, in 2019, spending dropped, with most everyone hovering around the $200 mark, except for Spearman and Parker, both of whom were below that.

3-year average travel expenses per event

In this chart, I calculated the 3-year, per-event average for each council member’s travel expenses.

Again, it’s not that surprising that Spearman is the lowest. And as I mentioned earlier, Miyashiro and Campbell have the two highest 3-year averages.

Interestingly, even though he attended just one event, Mauro had the third highest 3-year average. Keep in mind, however, that his 3-year cumulative total was $2,778. Other than Parker, whose 3-year total was $3,241, all other councillors had 3-year totals between $10,000 and $22,000.

Speaking of $22,000, even though Hyggen outspent all the other councillors on his 3-year total—by about $9,000–12,000—his 3-year average was the fourth highest, third if you consider Mauro an outlier.

3-year average per diem expenses per event

For the 3-year average on per diem expenses per event, Spearman, of course, comes in the lowest, given that he had the lowest claims every year and attended the most events.

Coffman and Crowson both had 3-year per diem averages significantly lower than the other 6 councillors. But they also had the lowest per event per diem expenses, too, so this isn’t surprising.

Other than Mauro, the remaining councillors spent over $500 per event on average over the last 3 years, with Parker averaging at an even $600.

3-year per day per diem average

Now, if we average the per day per diem expenses for the entire 3-year period, we get another viewpoint.

Spearman is the only member of city council who claimed less than $100 per day on average. Coffman, Mauro, and Parker were the only councillors who claimed under $200 per day.

The remaining 5 councillors all claimed more than $200 per day, with Miyahsiro and Campbell each claiming above $250 per day.

Over-budget spending

Finally, let’s discuss over-budget spending. Even though city council as a whole claimed significantly less every year than they had budgeted for, some members of city council overspent their individual budgets.

In 2017, Campbell went 130% over budget and Crowson went 135% over budget. Keep in mind that they were both elected in the last quarter of 2017, so their budgets were prorated, and each claimed und $1,400.

Hyggen, on the other hand, outspent his 2017 budget by 173%.

In 2018, no one went over budget. Carlson was the highest, at 81%. And 2019 was similar, with the highest spend being Hyggen again, at 89%.

You can find the original data, including the specific events and how much each member spent at each event here:

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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