COMMENT: Outrageous City Hall salaries an expensive legacy

Laurie Charlton
By Laurie Charlton
October 29th, 2012

Victor Kumar, former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) has left behind a legacy of outrageous salaries for management staff that are going to be very expensive for the taxpayers of Rossland.

Through a Freedom of Information request, I’ve obtained copies of the contracts for City management staff and information about salary adjustments.  The City has to publish a listing of the remuneration and expenses of all employees earning more than $75,000 per year.   Annual budgets, which include some salaries, are available for the last several years.  For comparison, I’ve obtained information from the UBCM about salaries paid to management staff for 2012 by several similar-sized communities for equivalent positions.

The 16 other communities range in population from about 2100 to 3900 based on the 2006 census with Rossland at 3278.  Average salaries in these communities for comparable positions to Rossland’s management staff are

Position               Average     Rossland 2011    Rossland 2012

CAO                   $115 428    $155242             $160 000

Corp Officer         $78 584      $86 500              $100 000

Planner               $86 091      $95 000              $97 000

Works Manager   $79 693      $90 000              $105 000

The comparisons suggest that many of the management positions in Rossland are significantly overpaid.  The salary for the CAO is set by council.  Salaries for other management staff were set or adjusted by Mr. Kumar.  He was very generous with taxpayers’ money.

I strongly suspect that when council agreed to a salary of $160,000 annually for Cecille Arnott, the new CAO, they were heavily influenced by Mr. Kumar.  How else can one explain the hiring of Ms. Arnott within two weeks of Mr. Kumar’s resignation?  Council certainly didn’t have time to adequately search for other candidates, research comparable salaries or discuss possible reorganizations.  Perhaps they feel the salary is justified because she is taking over two positions.

It’s interesting to speculate why council believes that Ms. Arnott can assume the positions of both CAO and Financial Officer especially given her limited previous experience as a CAO.  On the other hand, perhaps the two positions are not as onerous as we’ve been led to believe and the previous incumbents were extremely underemployed.  That might explain, for example, why Mr. Kumar had time to dream up some of his bizarre ideas like the swimming pool fiasco.

A clause in Ms. Arnott’s contract requires her to “donate” up to $15,000 per year to the City for the cost of participating in the City’s benefit programs.  This clause was also in Mr. Kumar’s contract.  It appears that the effect of the clause is to artificially inflate the pensionable earnings of the individuals.  The legality of such a clause needs to be questioned.  According to information on the Municipal Pension Plan website, additional pay in lieu of group benefits or payment of premiums for group benefits are not considered as pensionable salary.  If the clause was not meant to artificially inflate pensionable earnings, what is the purpose of providing extra pay then having it returned as a donation?

Salaries for other management personnel granted by Mr. Kumar were extravagant in the extreme.  There is some justification for increases equivalent to increases in the consumer price index (CPI).  From January 1, 2007 to January 1, 2012, the BC CPI increased from 108.1 to 116.5, an increase of 7.8%. 

In 2007, the salary of Tracey Butler, then Deputy City Clerk but now Corporate Officer , was about $60,000.  As of June 2012, her salary had increased to $100,000, an increase of about 67%.  The salary of Darrin Albo, Works Manager, as of Feb. 2007 was $73,000. As of January 1, 2012 his salary was $105,000, an increase of 43.8%.  The salary of Mike Maturo, Planner, was $78,000 as of May 2007 and $97,000 as of January 1, 2012, an increase of 24.4% .  For comparison, the average salary of all other unionized City employees is about $65,000.  They certainly didn’t receive increases like that.

Given the budget he is responsible for and the number of employees he supervises, I think only the salary of Mr. Albo is anywhere near justifiable.

 Claims have been made that the increases were based on increasing responsibilities for the individuals concerned.  While there might be some justification for that reasoning, did they really take on responsibilities that justified such massive increases, well beyond the increase in CPI?  If they were fully employed prior to taking on additional responsibilities, what responsibilities did they pass on to others and how much was their salary decreased to compensate for those reduced responsibilities?  I doubt that any such adjustment was made – salaries were simply ratcheted up, and up, and up!

Mr. Maturo was hired in 2007 to deal with the extensive planning that was expected for the proposed developments at Red Mountain and the Golf Course.  That development has evaporated and none is expected anytime soon.  That’s why Mr. Kumar convinced council to eliminate the Development Cost Charge Bylaw.  If little or no development is happening, do we really need the services of two planners?  Given that Mr. Maturo’s contract expired in May 2012, it’s time to give him notice, allowing time to complete the projects he’s currently working on, and reduce the management salary burden for the City.  I’d rather have the money spent on infrastructure than on paying someone to rattle around City Hall with little to do.

Additional clauses in the contracts of Ms. Arnott and Ms. Butler are cause for concern.   Their contracts specify that their salaries will increase by at least 3% annually.   In Ms. Arnott’s case, she is entitled to an increase of greater than 3% if the CPI increases by more than 3%.  In Ms. Butler’s case, she is entitled to the 3 % increase and any increase granted to other management employees.  The salaries of Mr. Albo and Mr. Maturo will increase by the same average increase awarded other management employees.  The net result is that all management employees will get at least 3% increases irrespective of what the CPI increase is.

Ms. Arnott will receive an extra two weeks of holidays, over and above her already generous allotment, for overtime work.  Ms. Butler gets an extra week of holidays for the overtime she might put in.  Mr. Albo and Mr. Maturo, however, are not entitled to any extra holidays to compensate for their overtime.  For the vast majority of management positions, which are paid on an annual salary basis, overtime is an accepted consequence of that position.  No additional formal time off is expected or granted.  So what’s so special about the few hours every couple of weeks that are spent attending council meetings?

Council needs to repeal the Delegation Bylaw and reassert some oversight and control over the spending habits of the CAO, whoever that might be.

Laurie Charlton is a retired chemist who was a Rossland city councillor for 17 years between 1975 and 2011.

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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