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Fildebrandt says he made mistakes billing Alberta government for meals

Derek Fildebrandt in Strathmore, Alta., on Jan. 26, 2015.

Bill Graveland/The Canadian Press

An Alberta politician who has made a career championing taxpayers says he made mistakes when he wrongly billed the government for meals over a period of years.

United Conservative Party member Derek Fildebrandt said he takes full responsibility.

"There were some administrative errors in processing meal receipts for staff, constituent and stakeholder meetings, with a potential total of up to $192.60 over a period of 2 and half years," Fildebrandt said in an emailed statement late Monday.

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"I should have been more careful in reviewing them before signing off. I will fully reimburse any discrepancy and take immediate action to ensure that errors like this do not happen again.

"I take the custodianship of taxpayers money with the utmost seriousness."

Fildebrandt's statement came four days after he apologized for renting out his taxpayer-funded apartment through Airbnb.

Once word of the rental scheme became public he announced that he was taking a leave of absence from his job as the party's finance critic. Fildebrandt also promised to pay back the $2,555 he earned from renting out the suite.

UCP interim leader Nathan Cooper reiterated Monday that Fildebrandt continues to be on a leave of absence from his finance critic portfolio.

"These expense claims are concerning and appear to be part of a larger pattern of behaviour that is unacceptable for a member of the United Conservative Party caucus," Cooper said in an emailed statement.

"We will be working with the Legislative Assembly Office and the Members' Services Committee to ensure these expense claims are rectified. We will continue to review UCP caucus expenses to ensure that our MLAs are held to the highest standard."

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Fildebrandt's latest financial mea culpa came hours after Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark released records that he said show Fildebrandt claimed meal expenses and also claimed the per-diem for the same meal nine times.

Clark said doubling claiming meal expenses is not allowed under the rules that govern members of the Alberta legislature.

He called for a review of all MLA expenses and penalties for politicians who break the rules.

"This is troubling information," Clark said.

"An audit is needed to ensure that all members are using taxpayer dollars wisely, and are not improperly financially benefiting from their role representing the people of Alberta."

Fildebrandt is the member of the legislature for Strathmore-Brooks and launched a group called United Liberty to advocate for the recent merger of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties – now the United Conservative Party.

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The United Liberty website says he once served as the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and led the fight against former Alberta premier Alison Redford government's deficit budgets and abuse of taxpayers' money.

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