Spearn Trashes Staff Changes; Mayor Responds
Staff changes at City Hall: two letters.
(Jill Spearn sent the first letter to your editor late on April 9; however, it was in a form that required me to re-type it before it could be posted here. By the time I had taken time to re-type the letter, Mayor Moore had sent a response to Spearn’s letter, which was already included in the material for the Council meeting for Monday, April 13. Both letters are posted below for your edicfication; Spearn’s letter appears first, then Moore’s response.)
Jill Spearn Wrote:
Having returned from a brief vacation in March, I was surprised to hear of the reorganization at City Hall, particularly the letters that were handed to both Deputy CAO/Corporate Officer Tracey Butler, and Manager of Public Works, Darrin Albo from Mayor Kathy Moore. After some investigations in order to understand the series of events, I feel it is only fair to speak about the process and the results of what has transpired. In your last week’s paper (another “paper” — Ed.) Mayor Kathy Moore stated that it is a challenge to find act Acting CAO to replace Ms. Butler because they “cost too much and the City can’t afford them.” Correct, they are paid well because any Council can apparently fire them, on a whim.
Firstly, I would like to describe what I understand to be the events that came to Ms. Butler leaving her position. Both she and Mr. Albo were asked to meet with the Mayor the following morning, March 9th, to discuss “something.” Mayor Moore then proceeded to give the same letter to both managers which clearly uses the word “termination.” Ms. Butler was entitled to work 2 more years at her current contract and the City could have terminated the contract with NO COSTS TO TAXPAYERS. However, we will now bear the approximately $200,000 payout, to only one of the two, Ms. Butler. The Council could have let her contract expire and saved that large amount of money. Ms. Butler seized an opportunity to negotiate a payout and now we’ll all pay, when it was unnecessary. Is this good stewardship of our taxpayers money? That seems to be the “Party” Line from Ms. Moore. Even more importantly, THERE WAS NEVER A COUNCIL RESOLUTION MAKING IT LEGAL for Mayor Moore to even have the conversation with the Managers. That is not an acceptable protocol in governance, nor was there ANY discussion or consultation offering Ms. Butler her Corporate Officer position at the meeting. She was told her contract would not be renewed and there was no further discussion. Why wasn’t there another Councillor present at this very sensitive meeting? This does not even begin to address the major gaps left at City HallIf you think that firing two key people who have the most experience and wherewithal about the City operations including the recent and past history of all projects, financial plans, how things just “roll” in Rossland, is smart, you are reacting rather than planning. The incredible value that both Tracey and Darrin offer to the citizens, regardless of cost, is above and beyond what you will get from hiring people who don’t have a vested interest in our community. We tried that with the last 3 CAOs and it failed us, because they weren’t really connected to our community.
I am surprised that Mayor Moore, and the Council, all now responsible for this grand scheme, have left the citizens with a skeleton staff with very little experience. This wans’t even part of a “Restructure Plan”, it was targeted at two excellent employees of the City of Rossland.
If the people of this town, who are all elated with this agenda to fire competent, valued employees, think we will get any better cost/benefits from some “unknown” stepping in, my experience in government of 3 terms as well as putting my name forward for Mayor in the last election, tells me I will be saying, “You have made a grave mistake letting these fine, local workers go at a HUGE cost to the citizens of Rossland.”
I look forward to seeing how this unfolds and trying to understand why these “chess moves” without a Council resolution were allowed to stand. If Ms. Butler decides to sue the City, I won’t be surprised. However, Castlegar has seen her skills as invaluable and she now works for our neighbouring municipality. Lucky them. Congratulations to Tracey! As for Mr. Albo, I’m sure that Council is “back-pedalling” trying to get him to stay after this blunder. I look forward to seeing how much that will cost us in increased contract negotiations if he decides to stay. Sometimes, throwing the baby out with the bathwater is purely bad practice. Those folks around town who are walking and talking about these terminations, as if it is the best we could have done, may just live to see their folly foiled.
Respectfully, D. Jill Spearn
Citizen of Rossland
Mayor Moore Responded:
April 12, 2015
I’d like to comment on Ms. Jill Spearn’s letter concerning staff changes at City Hall. I am disappointed that experienced, former councillor Spearn did not contact Council with her concerns. Her remarks are good for the rumour mill but regrettably they are unencumbered by all the facts.
She states that if Council let the contracts expire the City would owe the employees nothing, thus saving taxpayer money. Unfortunately, the contracts state that at the end of the term, they could be renewed or the severance clause would be activated. If we waited until the term expired we would have waited two years and then owed 24 months salary plus benefits. Thus the only way to change the terms of the contracts was to give 24 months working notice.
No one was fired. Both employees had the option to continue to work under the generous terms of their existing contracts for 2 years; then Council would be free to renegotiate better contracts for the benefit of the community.
Ms Spearn states that I acted without Council’s approval or foreknowledge. Council had innumerable meetings to discuss this labour issue and other challenges arising from contracts entered into by the previous council. I acted with Council’s full knowledge and endorsement. As a courtesy, and in the spirit of “no surprises,” I asked to meet with both employees to discuss an item on the upcoming agenda.
I showed both employees a draft letter but clearly told them that Council had not yet approved it; it wasn’t signed, it wasn’t on letterhead and it had a future date on it. It was, however, Council’s intent to change to the contracts.
No one has any standing to sue the city. Ms. Butler quit rather than work under the terms of her contract. That was her prerogative. Technically, the city was not obligated to pay her anything. In honor of her years of dedicated service, Council gave her a generous payout.
Council immediately started negotiating a new contract with Mr. Albo when he made it clear he did not want to work under the terms of his existing contract but also did not want to leave. Based on his input, we have designed a job that plays to his strengths and takes a lot of the stress out of his position. He is a valued member of the team and will be with the city for many years to come. The agreement is fair for everyone.
This council is dealing with a number of residual issues and complicated contracts approved by the last council. That is the case whenever a new group takes over. It was clear from the election results that the community supported a new approach. While we appreciate that change is hard, Council is taking action. I would encourage any citizen who has questions or concerns to contact me or another member of Council to check the facts.