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TDSB trustees take colleagues to task over online expense reports

Some Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees are taking aim at their colleagues over how expenses are posted online.

Trustees voted to turn down a proposal to post itemized expenses and receipts online in favour of more general categories such as “office supplies.”

“It is in my opinion, insane.  I have no idea what level of entitlement is so deeply embedded in these people that they think no one has any business in how they spend their money,” said Beaches-East York Sheila trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher.

“Shameful.  It is unacceptable. We should be posting our expenses just as they are at the city and the Toronto Catholic District School Board,” said Sam Sotiropoulos, trustee for Scarborough-Agincourt.

READ MORE: Parents outraged after TDSB refuses to bus children to school

They say Toronto trustees only have $27,000 a year in expenses, most of which is spent on an assistant, and it wouldn’t take much to post receipts.

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Cary-Meagher has gone ahead and posted itemized expenses herself on her website.  Yet just before a damning auditors report came out last week with some questionable spending by TDSB trustees, they opted for the vague reports.

“To try to obfuscate, to hide where we are spending money behind categories, is unacceptable,” said Sotiropoulos.

But some of the trustees who voted for the least detailed option say they are not trying to hide anything.

York Centre Trustee Howard Kaplan said his concern is the cost: He believes posting receipts online would simply be too expensive.

“The reason we turned it down is because it would cost a  lot of money.  We would have to hire a new person to look after it,” he said. “It is for economic reasons.  I have nothing against people knowing my expenses.  If people want to know, they can ask me and I’ll gladly send them copies.”

Trustee Howard Goodman, who represents Eglinton-Lawrence, said there is a difference between data and information.

WATCH: The chair of the TDSB says a new expense policy for trustees is much tighter

“If a report has confusion and unnecessary information, it tends to … obscure the real information that is there,” said Goodman.

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Instead, Goodman would like an itemized list of expenses with explanations for each one.

“All the receipt does is say, ‘The money was spent.’ It doesn’t say it was spent wisely, it doesn’t say whether it was spent for the value of the students,” he said.

But Cary-Meagher isn’t buying it. “I continue to be gobsmacked.  I don’t understand it,” she said.

There are plans to reopen the issue.

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