Winnipeg councillor racks up hefty phone bill
Elmwood city councillor Jason Schreyer is once again answering questions about how he’s using city resources for personal use after he racked up a $4,594.76 cell phone bill in February.
Schreyer said he was on a family road trip, travelling from Manitoba to California and he had pre-purchased a data roaming plan so he could stay connected by streaming city hall meetings and news. He paid about $100 for that data roaming plan.
“It happened to be that it went over the 1 gig (GB). I was told it would be more than adequate so it ended up going substantially over the 100 dollar package,” Schreyer said
What he didn’t know, was how much his 9-year-old son was using his phone to play video games.
“While we were in a long car trip for a couple of weeks I guess my son was playing Minecraft more than we thought,” Schreyer said.
Schreyer said he was made aware of the bill at the beginning of April. He said he always intended to pay it but wanted to see a breakdown of how much data was spent playing videogames versus how much was spent watching city council meetings or streaming news.
Last Friday, Schreyer said someone with Corporate Support Services informed him it’s impossible to differentiate the data usage. Schreyer said that day, he agreed to pay the bill this week. His expense was posted online before he did. He paid the bill Tuesday.
“This is really unfortunate. It looks like something is blown out of proportion for something that’s just a mistake,” Schreyer said. “And I was dealing with it responsibly. In due course. I never ignored it. We were in constant communication with my administration.”
City policy dictates the Corporate Finance Department to post Councillors’ expenses on the City’s website within 30 days of the end of each month.
David Driedger, manager of Corporate Communications with the City of Winnipeg, confirmed Schreyer had reimbursed the city and that will appear on the City’s expense disclosure in next month’s disclosure.
Councillor Schreyer previously had his city credit card suspended for not filing receipts on time.
He racked up 57,000 worth of personal items in 2015 and 2016 on a city credit card, including paying for expenses like dinner, groceries and an X-box for a relative’s birthday.
Christopher Adams, political science professor with St. Paul’s College, believes the optics before a civic election this fall aren’t helpful.
“I think this is not good timing for Mr. Schreyer. We’re going into a campaign this fall. In October.” Said Adams, “The fact that it went public I don’t think is good for his image.”
“It is bad optics but I’m being straight up about it,” said Schreyer. “It’s only fair to consider the fact that I am amongst the lowest spending city councillors on personal expenses that are chargeable to the taxpayer.”
When asked if Schreyer’s son would be using his city cell phone again, Schreyer said, “No, that was a mistake. It won’t happen again.”