Thursday, May 14, 2015

Third time's the charm for Mayoralty pay bump...

After five months of trying to find a way to make it work, Prince Rupert City Council finally delivered a pay raise for Mayor Lee Brain this month.

With an announcement from Monday that brings to a successful completion their efforts to turn the Mayor's position into a full time job.

In among some of the key notes from City Council's letter to the community of Monday was the announcement of Council's decision to increase Mayor Brain's position to that of a full time job.

A decision which will also provide for an increase in salary of 17,000 dollars per year, tacked onto the already existing annual salary of 42,474 dollar. It should also be noted, that the Mayor's office can also submit any expenses for work done on behalf of the City.

A sample of how salary and expense levels from the previous council were reported can be examined here.

That 17,000 dollar top up to the annual salary, will provide Mayor Brain with an additional 68,000 dollars in income before a sunset clause comes into effect in four years time.

Word of the Mayor's salary increase was noted in the Community update; reviewed under the sub category title of Council Supports a Full Time Mayor

The Mayor’s Office has become a full time assignment in the wake of major projects. Council has recognized the need for the Mayor to devote his attention to representing the City’s interests on a full time basis during this period of increased exposure.

Accordingly, Council has resolved to increase the Mayor’s annual salary to a full time level for the same four year period. This results in a $17,000 wage increase per year, which is included in the Planning for Major Projects Budget.

As a result, this will not be funded through residential or business taxes and will sunset after four years.

When we last left the discussions related to the the Mayor's salary and employment status, it was back in those times when such ideas were apparently discussed in public and Council members offered up commentary on the theme.

The First attempt to move the Mayor to full time with a pay increase came from departing Councillor Gina Garon, who made the motion in Council on November of 2014, a move that as was wisely suggested at the time as something to be left to the incoming council to consider.

November 27, 2014 -- Bid to increase Salaries of Mayor and Council stalls in final session

The next mention of a possible increase to the Mayor's salary came in mid January, when Councillor Cunningham resurrected the theme, with Council at that time perhaps telegraphing their plans, suggesting that they should consider the prospect during the then upcoming budget session.

Though most residents paying attention at that time, perhaps might have thought that would have been done as part of the Public Budget process and not through the nature of some of the closed door sessions that took place through the last four months.

January 14, 2015 -- Council to review salary increase for Mayor as part of Budget Process

At that January meeting there was in fact some hesitation expressed at the process, with Councillor Blair Mirau offering up some concern over Council members setting their own  salary levels, instead suggesting the formation of a Task Force arrangement or Citizen's Committee to address such issues as salary increases and such.

From that point in mid January however, it would appear that the shift in focus on discussions related  to the pay for the city's top elected official was decided outside of the public view.

On Monday evening, the City Manager Robert Long outlined for Council some of the highlights of that Major Projects Budget, making note of Council's decision to support the approval of the 17,000 dollar a year raise for Mayor Brain, making his position that of a full time Mayor.

Mr. Long also noted that the extra money for the top up to the Mayor's salary would come through the Major Projects Planning funding which is being provided through Legacy Inc.

May 13, 2015 -- City Manager speaks to main points of Council's Spring update

The funding of that listing of initiatives through the Planning for Major Projects Budget was done mostly out of public view, with the Mayor offering up some background on that process at the end of Monday's Council Session.

In his commentary of Monday the Mayor observed so that the public is aware, that a lot of this was passed through a closed meeting and those minutes will be coming out shortly.

He further noted that they had to do it that way because of the sensitive discussions related to issues related to land, legal and labour, stating that they had to have discussions around those types of topics and that they could not have that conversation necessarily out in the public.

Adding that they are here now revealing to everyone and being transparent and open, and making what Council believes to be wise and good choices for the community to move forward.

However, there might be a very strong argument to make that an increase to an elected official's salary (or the expected increase to the civic payroll through increased staffing levels that was hinted at in the update) should not fall under the concept  of such a guarded guideline and discussed in a closed session.

While there could be a very good case to make the Mayor's job a full time position with the accompanying salary increase, the fact is Mr. Brain did run for office through the fall, fully aware as to what the salary expectations were at the time in November.

The announcement after the fact, that city council members were awarding the Mayor with the bump, by way of discussions in closed sessions should leave residents a little uncomfortable.

By not providing a review of those salary deliberations in public session, we do not know if all Council members are in favour of the move at this stage of the city's climb out of trouble financial times.

Increasing salaries, for any member of council, should be something that allows for a full overview and exchange of ideas, with the public engaged in the process and any decision that is made done as part of open council discussion.

Also of some note, is the concept of using money for civic salaries by way of Legacy Inc., a city owned company that is administered by a Board of Directors made up of s city staff members

A Board accountable to only the city's politicians, who at the moment, don't seem to spend a lot of time examining Legacy initiatives through public council sessions.

An example of that is as easily found as from this week's Spring Council Update, where as the Mayor  noted on Monday night, much of their discussions on the Planning for Major Projects was done in closed sessions.

The thrust of the rush to increase the salary of the Mayor's position is related to the belief at Council that accelerated growth is about to arrive on the city's doorstep relatively soon. Though at the moment, if recent news headlines are an indication, it would appear that a number of those prospects seem to be stalled.

We wonder if anyone on council might have suggested that increasing such things as the Mayor's salary, or adding further to civic staffing levels might best wait for a bit, at least until we see if any of these potential investments ever come to pass.

We wonder, but we probably won't ever know, those discussions were held in a closed session.

For more items related to discussions at City Council see our archive page here.

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