What Golden Handshakes Cost Us

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 18, 2014

A new council takes over and an employee working at a senior position in the district is called into the office of CAO.

It seems like a routine meeting until the CAO drops the news: The employee is terminated, without cause.

Legally, the district didn’t have to offer any explanation, but no termination is ever ‘without cause’.

And the cause, a source told the Reporter, was political.

A newly elected councilor, who had earlier worked as a subordinate of the fired employee in another city, wanted the employee gone.

The dismissal cost the taxpayer $26,000. severance-MAIN

A top official rubs a politician the wrong way and comes back from vacation to find his job terminated.

In this case, the tax payer is dinged for more than $200,000.

More than $100,000 of tax payer’s money is spent on getting rid of a top manager, whose plans and a newly acquired lack of drive the new council doesn’t like.

And of course, there is the case of former fire chief Ray Saurette, fired by the Greg Gardner administration because his ‘leadership style not meshing with the direction that district is choosing to make. ’

Saurette, however, claimed at the time he was fired because he was trying to ensure firefighters were not drinking while on duty.

Since the district refuses to divulge the names of employees who are dismissed, it’s not clear how much was paid to Saurette.

In the last five years, District of Squamish has doled out $552,520 in severance payouts for exempt and union employees.

But that is the extent of what the district is willing to reveal on this issue.

The Reporter asked for all ‘severance, separation or settlement agreements’ completed in the last five years.

The district responded by only releasing the amount and the designation of the employee, saying the rest of the information is protected under the Freedom of Information Act.

Citing the same legislation, the district refused to reveal the names of the employees who received severance payments.

According to the information released by the district, eight employees at the district received severance payouts.

The heftiest amount went to a former fire chief, who was paid $205, 326. Next on the list was a former CAO who left with a golden handshake worth $187,168.

Third on the list was a general manager of community development who walked away with $109.754.

As an earlier FOI documents obtained by the Squamish Reporter revealed, the former general manager of community services, Cameron Chalmers, received $100,500 in severance.

Former district Chief Administrative Officer Kim Anema received a severance payout of $225,000, according to FOI documents obtained by the Squamish Chief newspaper.

Councilors remain tongue-tied

Are all hiring and firing decisions taken by the CAO? What kind of role do the councillors have in employee dismissals?

What safeguards there are to ensure employees aren’t being unfairly dismissed and tax payers money isn’t unnecessarily spent on severances.

The district didn’t answer questions about how many employees were terminated and whether all received severance in the last five years.

The general manager of corporate service, Robin Arthurs, said all additional questions will have to go through a new FOI, which can take anywhere from a month to 40 days.

With privacy legislation on their side, councilors also find it easy to skirt the question over employee dismissals.

Coun. Bryan Raiser said he would have liked to talk on this talk, but can’t comment. Coun. Doug Race said he won’t be able to comment on the issue.

“As you know, personnel decisions are made in camera so there is nothing I can say about this,” he said.

Comments

  1. TJay says:

    Legally drawn up contracts are just that, legal & binding, and should be adhered to. Otherwise why have so-called ‘law’ at all ? Kick ‘it’ in the garbage can !!
    If we don’t to adhere to law, then take on the job(s) yourselves and see how you like it…

  2. larry mclennan says:

    An employee of the district was fires because a newly elected councillor didn’t like him?? If this is true, that councillor and any other councillors who went along with that decision (presumably in camera) should be outed and dismissed from Council. This termination action, if as described , appears to be HIGHLY UNETHICAL , and should not constrain any councillors from ignoring any confidentiality provisions of the Municipal Act. Silence from Council members implies compliance with the seeming unethical act and thus they should all be dismissed.