More Screw-ups at City Hall

Laurie Charlton
By Laurie Charlton
November 7th, 2013

Aaron Cosbey has objected to the unceremonious removal of Planner Mike Maturo from City Hall.  Was Mr. Maturo’s termination done properly?  The short answer is no, it wasn’t, but not for the reasons suggested by Mr. Cosbey.  I can’t agree with Mr. Cosbey’s lavish assessment of Mr. Maturo’s accomplishments and contributions to the City.

Mr. Maturo’s send-off is just another example of the chaos at City Hall and the inability of Mayor Granstrom and council to control the activities of senior staff, both past and present.  That’s partly because they’ve delegated most of their authority to the CAO, whoever it might be.

Mr. Maturo’s contract actually expired in May 2012.  According to the terms of his contract, Mr. Maturo was required to notify the City if he wished to renew the contract eleven months before it expired.  That would have been in June 2011.  There has been no indication whether Mr. Maturo did so. If the City received such notice from Mr. Maturo, they had two months to negotiate a new contract, that is by August 2011. 

If Mr. Maturo failed to give notice, or the City chose not to renegotiate, or the parties were unable to agree to a renewal, the contract would expire without any obligation on the part of the City to provide any further notice or make any payment in lieu of notice.   There would be no further cost to the City.

Given that Mr. Maturo’s contract was not renewed, it appears either the City did not wish to renew the contract or they could not agree to terms.  Under those conditions, Mr. Maturo should have ceased working for the City in May of 2012.  Indeed, he should have stopped working for the City at that time since there was no meaningful work for him to do.  However, he continued to work. 

Some may argue that he was overseeing the Columbia Avenue Infrastructure project throughout 2012.  I do not believe he was qualified for that job.  There appears to have been a significant cost overrun for that project of at least $500,000.  At least part of the responsibility for that overrun has to belong to Mr. Maturo.

Mr. Maturo’s contract also states that if, by mutual consent, he worked beyond the date of the expiry of his contract (May 2012) then his employment would thereafter be terminated according to section 4.3.2 of his contract.  Since he continued to work, it has to be assumed there was mutual consent but nothing in writing.

That meant the City was back on the hook for a healthy payout to Mr. Maturo if they chose to terminate his contract.  The opportunity for the termination of his contract at no cost to the City was gone!

Section 4.3.2 of Mr. Maturo’s contract says that if his employment is terminated without cause, he is entitled to payment of 11 months salary plus 15% in lieu of benefits.  At Mr. Maturo’s current salary in 2013, plus 15% for benefits, his payout would be about $105,000.

At the in-camera meeting of September 9, 2013, council adopted a resolution “that council not renew the employment contract of Mr. Mike Maturo and that his employment be terminated as per Mr. Maturo’s contract, dated July 20, 2007.”  Mayor Granstrom later explained that “Mr. Maturo was laid off because his contract was up, and there wasn’t enough work for two planners”.

There’s the problem.  There wasn’t enough work for two planners in 2011.  That’s when council should have made the decision not to renew Mr. Maturo’s contract.  Of course, that’s when former CAO Victor Kumar was calling the shots at City Hall, and he had been delegated the authority to hire and fire City staff.  It wasn’t council’s decision to make.  It was Mr. Kumar’s decision to make and he did nothing. 

So why did current CAO Cecile Arnott refer the question of Mr. Maturo’s continued employment to council for a decision?  She has been delegated all the same powers over hiring and firing staff as Mr. Kumar had.  Was it because she wasn’t prepared to make the tough decisions she is being obscenely overpaid to make?  Or was it because she wanted Council to take the heat for making the decision?  Why did she take so long to act?  Maybe it’s because she’s been away from City Hall for extended periods and didn’t know what was going on.  Who knows?  But I suppose it’s to her credit that she actually did recommend that Council take action about an issue that should have been dealt with two years ago.

The result of these blunders is an additional cost to the City of at least $105,000.  That’s $105,000 that could have been used more productively for any number of purposes.  There has been no indication of what part of the budget that money will come from.  It’s another example of the ridiculous overpayments that have been, and continue to be, paid to senior staff in City Hall.

The bottom line appears to be that Mr. Maturo got a belated and improper, but highly lucrative, send-off from the City at taxpayers’ expense.

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

Categories: GeneralOp/EdPolitics

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