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Watchdog questions Surrey art piece 0

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

A government watchdog is questioning public art purchases for the office of Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

A government watchdog is questioning public art purchases for the office of Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

The city of Surrey is defending its purchase of a rose-coloured quartz that cost more than $3,300 and was put on display in the city's top office.

According to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, the quartz was purchased in 2012 as a piece of public art for the office of Mayor Dianne Watts from a store called Crystalworks Gallery in Vancouver.

In 2006, the city made another purchase from the same store for $730 for a framed print.

The description of the item in the FOI indicated the print was also for the mayor’s office.

In 2013, a staff member at the city told 24 hours the quartz was initially listed under “supplies and materials” when it was purchased because it would be considered an intangible asset.

In April, 24 hours asked the city where the quartz was and was told it was packed up for the move to the new city hall, and a spokesman said Monday it isn’t known exactly where the item is, adding things are still being unpacked.

Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said considering the public safety issues Surrey faces the money could have been better spent.

“These types of expenses don’t work with taxpayers because they simply demonstrate and reinforce the sense of entitlement that ordinary citizens feel that politicians think they have,” Travis said. “It never ends well, and the learning curve seems to be incredibly steep as to why someone in public life would feel it’s justified to spend $3,000 on a crystal quartz.”

He added there should be a cultural or historical connection between spending on public art and the city buying such pieces, but there doesn’t appear to be any similarities in this case.

A spokesman for the city said expenditures on public art are a normal purchase and the public is able to see the piece if it books a tour that includes the mayor’s office.

Travis also questioned why the city doesn’t know exactly where the quartz is, suggesting movers would have noted its location and in what box it was placed.

“You don’t misplace items that are valued at $3,000,” he said. 

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