By ROY WOOD
Late last week ODN sent an email to all the candidates for Osoyoos council asking the following question:
In August 2016 the mayor and council voted themselves pay raises : 15 per cent for the mayor and five per cent for councillors. These were in addition to the annual cost-of-living increases already in place.
All debate and discussion of the stipend increases took place at closed, in-camera council meetings.
On the other hand, in 2011 the council appointed a committee of three Osoyoos residents to examine the issue. After looking at council remuneration levels in comparable communities and interviewing all five members of council, the committee recommended an increase limited to the increase in the cost of living. The recommendation was adopted.
( Editor’s note: Roy Wood was a member of the remuneration committee)
Do you think it is appropriate for the mayor and council to make decisions about their own compensation in private and with no public input?
Why or why not?
All the candidates responded.
Almost without exception, the challengers said they believe the in-camera process is flawed and that a more public way of dealing with council remuneration would be appropriate.
The three incumbents – Mayor Sue McKortoff and Councillors Jim King and CJ Rhodes – preferred not to address the process question but rather focused on the outcome.
Below, in alphabetical order, are the responses. Some have been edited for length, clarity and style:
Myers Bennett – councillor candidate
I cannot change the past and did not vote for the increase. But in the future, when I am on council, I will make sure those decisions are more transparent.
Brian Harvey – councillor candidate
I do not have any direct knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the 2011 and 2016 remuneration processes. However, I am of the opinion that there should always be an independent compensation committee appointed to review and recommend on remuneration increases for council members.
The mechanics of setting up such committee should be developed by staff and council after fulsome research and consideration of best practices on the subject.
Jim King – incumbent councillor
My comments are the same as the mayor’s.
Jane Long – councillor candidate
Should these be taken to the public for consultation? Yes, I believe the public should know before it happens. And I think a consultation should take place if the raise is higher than the CPI.
If it is within the increase of CPI, I am still in favour of providing the information to the public. Either way, open meetings should be used. That way the public understands why something is being done and their input can be sought.
The following are reasons I would support a raise: Change in taxation making the take home pay lower; significant increases in cost of living; taking into account hours council members work, the rate of pay should be above minimum wage; and the town is growing and, therefore, so are the responsibilities of the council members and their remuneration should reflect that.
Except for cost of living increases, all of these would still require a public consultation.
Shelley McIntyre – councillor candidate
I am not in favour of voting for your own raise. I find this a bit concerning. I believe that the public should be informed and either an open meeting or a discussion with the public, who is paying for that raise, should be involved.
I have not looked into all the details of this meeting on why the raise was felt necessary at this time. But if increases are built into the agreement with the town for cost of living, I feel that should stand as is, unless the public has requested or that it is brought to the public’s knowledge well before that meeting.
I also feel that there is some concern for voting for your own raise. Of course you would want that raise and that recognition. I do think there needs to be a better way of doing this. There are solutions to this, but I do not think this was the right course of action in this case.
Sue McKortoff — incumbent mayor
Council asked director Jim Zakall to look at compensation for mayor and councillors from other, similar-sized communities. There had not been a raise in the stipend for many years, other than COLA.
You (Roy Wood) were on the committee that council appointed in 2011, so you know there had not been a raise for some time before 2011, and there was not a raise until January 2017.
What was unanimously voted on was a 5% raise for councillors and a 15% raise for the mayor. This was not only based on the amount of time and work each did, but also to make the compensation comparable to our closest neighbour — Oliver.
I am confident that we made the right decision.
Si Murseli (This councillor candidate does not have access to email and was interviewed by phone.)
It was not proper. It was a complete conflict of interest because they benefit without any public input.
Kenny Music – councillor candidate
I am vehemently opposed to the elected mayor and council having in-camera meetings to discuss and/or approve remuneration for themselves.
Having a strong human resources background, I believe the principles of job evaluation demand close cooperation between compensation professionals and the industry at large, in this case, comparable municipalities; typically reserved for those who specialize in total compensation.
So, not to put too fine a point on it, the appointment of three Osoyoos residents does not, in my opinion, satisfy the evaluative efforts of a compensation professional.
Doug Pederson – mayoral candidate
Not appropriate at all.
Having staff or a committee is no better.
Not only should the pay of mayor and council be looked at again but the town staff as well.
I won’t attend anything that is in camera and will vote against in-camera suggestions.
CJ Rhodes – incumbent councillor
My comments echo the comments made by the mayor.
Year after year Osoyoos continues to report strong financial numbers. We practise due diligence on all financial matters and the town auditors compliment our finance department every year on the quality of their work and their ongoing success.
We enjoy a sensational lifestyle in Osoyoos and the amenities and services that are provided by our financial decisions are extraordinary.
The decision to increase the stipend for the mayor and councillors was appropriate and similar to the hundreds of other financial decisions that contribute to a great lifestyle in Osoyoos.
Sherani Theophilus – councillor candidate
Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough of the details I needed to respond properly to your question in time.
These have been long days.
I did run across an interesting CBC article regarding the disturbing trend of BC councillors and mayors resigning over the time commitment and increased complexity of the job.
I am positive nobody is in it for the money.