Categories: Community engagementTourism and events

Clarity needed on Fundraising by Burlington’s City Council

CSC, Feb. 27, 6:30 pm, City Hall; Council March 18

Council will be considering a motion to research options for a policy on fundraising by members of council, and donations and sponsorship to council member-organized community events. The motion directs staff to review practises in other municipalities and report back on options for council’s consideration, including a review of existing policies and the potential for new fundraising policies.

Council will consider the item at the Community Services Committee Feb. 27, with a final vote March 18.

The motion is in response to recent media attention on fundraising practises in other municipalities, as well questions raised by members of Council about fundraising activities, primarily in the Mayor’s Office (some new, some ongoing from previous terms).

Total gross revenue for Mayor’s-Office organized events (Inspire; Cabaret; One Dream) was $201,807 (2012). Events with the sponsorship assistance or branding of the Mayor’s Office (Burlington Economic Development Corporation, and Burlington Community Foundation events) was $201,660 (2012) for a grand total last year of $403,467.

A full list of those activities , amounts raised, expenses and donor lists, is included in a report from the Mayor’s Office available here.

These events are over and above special event spending authorized in council-member budgets (members of council receive $9000 and the mayor $32,000 annually for constituent activities, including hosting meetings and events. See story below).

Summary of events and gross revenue received:

The Mayor’s Inspire Burlington Speakers Series:
$13,050 (2011); $19,350 (2012); $10,000 (2013 – to date)

Mayor’s One Dream Workshop: $57,500

The Mayor’s Cabaret
(a fundraiser for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre): $124,957 (2012)
Planning underway for September 2013.

Burlington Community Foundation Masquerade Ball (formerly The Mayor’s Gala)
Assisted with sponsorship phone calls and signing sponsorship request letters and received $25,000 in each of 2011 and 2012 from the proceeds, which was put toward innovateBurlington (in 2011) and a fund for graduate students administered by BCF (in 2012).

Burlington Economic Development Events
(branded as “Mayor’s” events):
* Mayor’s Luncheon Series: $74,630 (2012); $107,350 (2011)
* Mayor’s Annual Golf Classic: $102,030 (2012); $103,455 (2011)

My Take: The amounts here are substantial, the activity is ongoing and there is no clear policy to provide guidance.

I thank Mayor Rick Goldring for bringing forward the motion and providing this report – it’s the first time I’m aware of that a complete listing of activities, amounts, donors and costs has been publicly released by a mayor.

The City of Toronto has a well-developed policy on council-member organized events and fundraising here that may provide some guidance. Among other things, it includes a cap on the amount of fundraising for council-member organized events ($10,000 per year total for all events); restricts fundraising during an election year, and forbids it after nomination papers are filed; provides reporting and banking requirements; and excludes accepting funds from developers with any pending planning, conversion, demolition or sign variance application before the city. Surplus revenue must be counted as part of the councillors annual office budget. Members of council are also advised not seek donations for programs that have been, or could be offered, through the City.

The City of Toronto’s Code of Conduct further forbids the use of city resources for any activity other than “the business of the Corporation.” Among other things, this policy forbids the use of city resources for fundraising for private charities.

Your Take: Do you support a policy on fundraising, and council-member organized events? If so, what criteria should be included? Should council-member sponsored events be paid for through fundraising or through the council members’ annual budget, or both? Post a comment below or email me

Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

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