City’s cost review too vague: resident

The city's recently published Organization and Compensation review is raising more questions than answers for one local resident.

The City of Port Alberni’s recently published Organization and Compensation review is raising more questions than answers for one local resident.

In 2015 the city contracted Judy Rogers Consulting Inc. to conduct a review of the city’s management structure and salary compensation for exempt employees.

The cost analysis, prepared by acting city administrative officer Tim Pley and released Monday includes more details on known or projected cost increases and decreases associated with the Rogers report.

However, the report doesn’t go deep enough, says Port Alberni resident Roland Smith, who has been critical of the way city council has managed the Rogers report.

Smith has recently voiced concerns regarding Port Alberni mayor and council’s record on transparency and staffing practices and said he’s working on notes to present at the next regular council meeting after reading the cost analysis.

“The bottom line is there’s really not a whole lot of information in there,” Smith said. “One item that jumped out that I don’t see in there is salaries.”

Smith said he has been accused of being in collusion with city staff because of his recent concerns with city salaries but that the rumours are categorically false.

“This has been an ideologically driven exercise and sadly this iteration of council will expire and probably many of them will not return for a variety of reasons, either because they chose not to or because they get unelected, but the damage will have been done,” Smith said.

The Judy Rogers report cost the city $40,610 in 2015 and the net annual cost for 2016 with all the staffing moves was $49,713, according to the report released  Monday.

The city saved $17,176 in leaving the director of corporate services position unfilled from Nov. 15, 2015, when Theresa Kingston was moved from corporate services to community services, until May 30, 2016 when a new manager of human resources was hired.

Kingston then received a raise of $14,470 in 2016 because the community services job also encompasses that of director of parks, recreation and heritage.

A cost decrease of $67,086 was the result of developing and populating a new manager of human resources position and collapsing the former director of corporate services position.

Promotions for the former administrative assistant to the newly created position of deputy city clerk/communications coordinator will cost the city an additional $15,728 per year for a salary increase. In addition, the promotion of the former streets superintendent to the new position of manager of operations will cost the city $13,781 annually.

The report determines an “unspecified amount” when it comes to cost increases or decreases for the major projects advisor, Ken Watson. In January 2016, Watson, former city manager, was transferred to the newly created position of major projects advisor.

The analysis states, “His work in that capacity has resulted in an unspecified avoidance of consultant fees on a list of projects that include: sewage lagoon, Coal Creek, Millstone Park, Water Transmission Renewal and Watershed Protection Report.”

A fixed-term employment agreement between the city and Watson states the former city manager will receive $26,750 upon his retirement on Jan. 1, 2017.

“When Mr. Watson was transferred to the new position, the city and Mr. Watson negotiated a new employment agreement. That agreement sets out that Ken’s employment will end Dec. 31 this year and that he’ll utilize all vacational allotment prior to that,” Pley explained after the meeting.

“As of Jan 1, 2017 he’ll be paid two months’ equivalent salary; that’s what that ($26,750) figure is.”Pley said during the council meeting that it is common for municipalities to periodically undertake third party organizational reviews and in fact this organization has undertaken several in recent years.

“In 2016 when the bulk of changes were initiated resulting from recommendations in the Rogers report…there was some cost avoidance, some direct savings and the net for 2016 that we anticipate, knowing halfway through the year, is $49,713,” Pley said Monday.

“There are some things that aren’t specified, some things we’re unable to put a cost to and there may be some more costs this year…that were not fully developed to the point where we can put a number to them.”

In 2017 and beyond, the city expects to see a net cost of $8,387 which will likely be reoccurring year after year, Pley said.

Recent changes to council’s in-camera meetings have raised discussion regarding exempt employees attendance.

Those meetings have largely occurred during work hours, Pley said, where they used to be in the evenings.

“One could construe that having fewer exempt employees at those meetings is an efficiency because there’s fewer people tied up in meetings…it’s not a cost avoidance but it’s an efficiency that we’re not spending as much time in meetings as we may have in the past,” Pley said.

During the June 27 regular council meeting the question was raised how exempt staff’s salaries and benefits are negotiated.

Mayor Mike Ruttan said exempt employees are engaged under a separate employment agreement and that there is no collective agreement for these staff as there is for unionized employees.

“Benefits for our exempt staff are generally determined by policies that are approved by council,” Ruttan said. “The city utilizes a comprehensive program that evaluates exempt positions and establishes a salary range for each exempt position that reflects a salary range for similar positions in comparative communities. Exempt employee salaries are subject to negotiation within this establishment.”

 

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