Travel Expenses: Mayor vs Mayor

The CBRM has posted its audited financials from fiscal year 2007-2008 to fiscal year 2017-2018 on the municipal website.

From 2010-2011 on, they include travel expenses for elected officials and senior CBRM staff members.

I wanted to compare Mayor Cecil Clarke’s travel expenses to those of his predecessor, Mayor John Morgan, but I could only find Morgan’s expenses for four years (which is hardly much of a sample considering he served three terms in office).

Still, I thought the comparison would be of some value, so here’s what it looks like — with another caveat, which is that Clarke claimed some of this port-related travel expenses through the Port of Sydney Development Corporation for a couple of years, which means the figures I found in the CBRM financial statements are incomplete.

I didn’t include 2012-2013, in which both Morgan and Clarke were reimbursed for travel expenses, in computing my full-year averages.


Fiscal YearClarke (Total Travel Expenses)Fiscal YearMorgan (Total Travel Expenses)
Average Full-Year Expenses36,13941,468


This was instructive for me, because I thought Clarke’s travel expenses  were high, but it seems Mayor Morgan’s were just as high, at least, for his last three years in office. (I presume I could FOIPOP the earlier data but frankly, I’m not up to that right now — financially or spiritually.)

On the other hand, Morgan didn’t have an executive assistant traveling with him because Morgan didn’t have an executive assistant — nor did he have a personal communications person — so I suspect that overall, he cost the CBRM less than Clarke does.

Still, those travel expense bills are hefty, so I think I’d better trot out my call center example one last time:

To make what Morgan spent on travel in four years, a modern call center employee working 40 hours a week at $12 an hour would have to work SIX YEARS.

And to make what Clarke has spent on travel in the past six years, that call center employee would have to work NINE YEARS.

That’s just to earn their travel expenses — to earn what Clarke earned in salary plus expenses in 2017-18 alone ($113,526 + $26,595 or $140,121) that call center worker would have to work SIX YEARS.

And before you tell me that the mayor’s job is much more important, I’d ask you to consider this scenario and then tell me on what planet it could ever occur: a call center worker goes into the boss’s office and explains that she’s been calculating all the (paid) vacation she hasn’t been taking and has decided that a) it rolls over from year to year, b) it adds up to over 20 weeks and c) she’s going to use it to run for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservatives but not to worry, it won’t affect the time she devotes to her actual job.

If you said: Not on this planet, you are correct.


Charlotte, NC

I haven’t had time to do a full comparison of the CBRM’s salary and compensation to that of other Canadian and American mayors but I ran across one example that was so striking, I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s the compensation paid the mayor and councilors of Charlotte, North Carolina, a city with a population of 859,035, a 2019 operating budget of $2.6 billion and approximately 8,000 city workers:

The annual salary for the Mayor is $25,636 with an expense allowance of $10,000 and an auto allowance of $4,800. The annual salary for Council members is $19,809 with an expense allowance of $5,800 and an auto allowance of $4,000. The Mayor and Council members also receive a $3,100 technology allowance, which is paid in December

That means that all in — salary, expense allowance, auto allowance and technology allowance, the Mayor of Charlotte earns $43,536 a year.

By comparison, the Mayor of the CBRM — with a population of 100,000, a 2019 operating budget of $150 million and a municipal workforce of about 800 — earned $140,121 in 2017-18, or, in US dollars, $104,768.

Meaning Clarke’s compensation was 71% higher than the compensation of Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, who heads a city eight times the size of the CBRM. In an opinion piece in the Charlotte Agenda on the subject of mayoral compensation, the author makes the point that the city runs on a council-manager model:

[Charlotte]is run by a professional city manager…The city council and the mayor set policy, and the manager is responsible for carrying it out day-to-day.

The mayor of Charlotte, he says, is “weak” and that’s just fine by him:

Charlotte’s mayor is most effective as a part-time position, with the understanding that it occasionally will take full-time hours.

But the CBRM also, according to the municipal web site:

…utilizes a Council/Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) style of government. The administration is broken into a number of municipal departments, each responsible for the delivery of specialized services coordinated through the office of the CAO who ultimately reports to the full Council.

And while technically (I have just read), the terms “weak mayor” and “strong mayor” only apply to mayor-council style models of municipal government, most Canadians do think of mayors as being “weak.”

So the arguments that apply in Charlotte could conceivably apply here in the CBRM — maybe we should thank Mayor Clarke for showing us, by campaigning for another job for eight months, that Mayor of the CBRM is actually “a part-time position” that “occasionally will take full-time hours.”

Honestly, I did not expect to end up here but I have to say that between the fact that our mayor stepped away from his desk for eight months last year and the municipality carried on without him and the realization that far bigger municipalities than the CBRM have part-time mayors, it’s an idea that’s starting to grow on me.

But this is an opinion in progress — feel free to tell me why I’m wrong.