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Plante to reimburse $540 for Vienna wine bill covered by Montreal taxpayers

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Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is reimbursing more than $500 in wine bought at taxpayers' expense.

The wine was purchased during a dinner for 12 in Austria last spring, when Plante led a delegation on a mission to Vienna in April to learn how that city handles social housing.

Dinner for 12 people totalled $1,900, including $540 for eight bottles of wine. The bill didn't appear on any expense forms.

The expenses were discovered by French media outlet the Journal de Montreal through an Access to Information request.

City officials said they saw the dinner as a meet and greet "event" and, therefore, part of the mission and not a meal. Plante now admits that was a mistake, and the bill has been reimbursed.

While she wouldn't give an interview to CTV News, her team said in a statement: "This was an exceptional error made in good faith, which has now been corrected."

City hall opposition leader Aref Salem said it shows the mayor is too loose with tax dollars.

"She was trying to hide it for sure," he said. "The ethical code of the elected officials at the city - and we had courses about that - it's not allowed to reimburse alcohol, and it's clear at the city. Everyone knows about it."

On Monday, the president of the city's executive committee at city hall resigned following allegations she abused her expense account while at the head of the public consultation office. Now, the mayor is coming under scrutiny.

"The expense is not large, but it's the context," said Michel Seguin, an ethics and governance professor at UQAM.

Given that the city is saying finances are tight and taxes are expected to go up, spending taxpayer money on wine shows a lack of sensitivity, he said.

The mayor's team said it has made efforts to tighten spending on international missions. 

The Quebec municipal commission said it is investigating the alcohol purchases.

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