It cost the Town of Qualicum Beach more than $370,000 to sever ties with two senior staff members in the past 10 months.
The NEWS obtained the data through a Freedom of Information request.
CAO Mark Brown retired last October at the age of 53 after 33 years of employment with the municipality. He was paid $133,250 in severance pay, $37,351 in accrued vacation and $68,184 in accrued leave, otherwise known as sick leave.
Trudy Coates was the corporate administrator for the town for seven years. In March of this year, it was announced she would be leaving her position as a result of restructuring and downsizing of the management team as the town said it was trying to reduce costs. Coates was paid $98,695 in severance, $11,344 in accrued vacation and $22,688 in accrued leave (sick pay) in accordance with Town policy.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek reacted to the news by e-mail on Thursday.
“Do I think the numbers you have cited are high and are they of concern to me? In a word, yes to both questions,” the mayor wrote. “However, you must also be aware that the town is bound by legal and contractual obligations, including existing policies and bylaws. We have to make payments in accordance with those legal obligations.”
Westbroek also added that council deliberately delayed replacing the CAO to help balance most of those costs. New CAO Daniel Sailland starts his job in the first week of September.
The Qualicum Beach Residents Association QBRA) declined to comment on the appropriateness of the payments but suggested that the information obtained by The NEWS begs more questions than it answers.
“What were the reasons for the sudden departure of the town’s two most senior employees? Also, what are the total costs resulting from their dismissal, including the executive search service retained by the town to assist with the recruitment of Mr. Brown’s replacement?” read the e-mail statement from Bill Adkins, on behalf of the QBRA board.
Coun. Dave Willie said he couldn’t comment on the specific cases of the two former staff members, but when asked if there are changes coming that might reduce the amount of sick pay that can be accrued, he said that is currently being reviewed.
“We did have serious concerns about it and we reviewed it and had a staff report on it and that is being presented Aug. 11, I believe,” he said.
Currently the town has a bylaw that permits the payment of accrued sick leave to a maximum of 120 days. Willie said 60 days is the norm and that will be in a report coming to council.
As far as accrued vacation pay goes, Westbroek said vacation earned and not taken is owed to employees by law, but what can be done better is to ensure that the staff take as much of their vacation as possible in the year they earn it, he said, although this can be difficult with work volumes.
Westbroek said he still supports the reorganization which removed Trudy Coates from her position as it will ultimately result in savings to the town.
“As a result, once these payments are completed, the town will be saving the salary, benefits, vacation and any other accruals for that position,” wrote the mayor. “Again, remember that as a result of the reorganization, the town’s management team was reduced from 11 to eight in 2014.”