Minutes. Minutes are good. They serve as written verification of decisions made at official meetings. However, as good as they are, minutes do not capture everything.
Mind the gap: the gap between the Agenda and the Minutes.
Take, for instance, the March 14 Sooke Council Meeting. In the Agenda, CAO Teresa Sullivan put forward recommendation (RA7) reading (colour added by SPN for easy identification): “That Council appoint Gabryel Joseph as Corporate Officer for the District of Sooke under section 148 of the Community Charter.”
According to the Minutes that were posted about a month later, the council decision on RA7 was recorded thus (colour added by SPN for easy differentiation):
RA-7 Public Officer and Designated Employee Appointments
MOVED and seconded to appoint Gabryel Joseph as Acting Corporate Officer for the District of Sooke under section 148 of the Community Charter.
Councillors Logins and Parkinson opposed the motion
Between the Agenda and the Minutes, it would be a logical assumption that a simple modification of the appointment (from “Corporate Officer” to “Acting Corporate Officer”) was made to item RA7.
What really transpired in the exchange was somewhat fascinating. It included three future job postings, two high-level job amalgamations, and one $52,000 oopsie. (No turtle doves, french hens, or partridges in pear trees.)
Here is a verbatim transcript along with a running SPN commentary (in italics, offset) from the video of the March 14 meeting. If you want to follow along, watch the March 14, 2016 Video here (queued to open at this particular item, RA7)
Transcript of the discussion to appoint G Joseph as Corporate Officer, with SPN observations
Rick Kasper (Acting Mayor): The Public Officer and Designated Employee Appointments. So, we have a staff presentation on that?
SPN added commentary: (CAO Teresa Sullivan shakes her head, no)
Rick Kasper: It says, Staff report and presentation… So, there’s a motion? So, the motion is: “That Council appoint Gabryel Joseph as Corporate Officer for the District of Sooke under section 148 of the Community Charter.” Any questions or discussion? Yes, I’ll head over to our CAO, Ms Sullivan.
SPN: Ms Sullivan’s following report covers a lot of ground, but does not mention anything in the actual motion, which is the direct appointment of Mr. Joseph as Corporate Officer. She reports the then-Deputy-Corporate-Officer was going part-time and that job will be competed once the job description is done; the newly created position of Director of Corporate Services will be combined with the former Corporate Officer position to improve efficiency and save roughly $75,000; and, it’s what they did with amalgamating Planning, Engineering and Building, combined it all under one Director.
Teresa Sullivan (CAO): Through the Chair, this appointment is as a result of one of our staff members choosing to make a lifestyle decision to go part time. We will be planning on competing a Deputy Corporate Officer position immediately, as soon as we have the job description done. And this is combining the old Corporate Officer position with the new Director of Corporate Services position, which in the end will save the District some money. I don’t know exactly how much, yet, but it will be close to approximately $75,000. It’s no different from what we did with respect to the combination of the Planning, Engineering and Building Department and putting that all under one Director. That was to improve efficiency, streamline communications, and to put that department together cause that work is so intertwined. It’s pretty much the same with respect to our Corporate Services.
Kevin Pearson: I’ll move the recommended action.
SPN: (Mic off, says something, raises hand as the seconder)
Rick Kasper: Could I just speak to it first? Would it not be more appropriate to say “Acting Corporate Officer”? Because if there’s going to be a competition … would that be … ?
SPN: Note that Sullivan’s earlier mention of a competition was “competing a Deputy Corporate Officer position…,” not the Corporate Officer position.
Teresa Sullivan: Thank you. We can do that.
Rick Kasper: So, does the mover and seconder agree to that? (“Yes.” “Yes.”) I just wanted a point of clarity because competition the term “Acting” would be more appropriate. Any discussion?
SPN: “Acting” is used when a temporary leave is filled with someone acting as, as in acting Mayor; when an employment function is temporarily filled between hirings, that position is “interim.”
Ebony Logins: I’m opposed to this motion. I believe that the person we are about to appoint is wonderful. I have nothing … It is not a personal thing at all. I just believe that this is a position that should be posted to the District of Sooke.
Rick Kasper: So, it is actually going to be a posting, correct?
SPN: Two new Director postings are suggested in the following.
Teresa Sullivan: Yes, after we’ve completed doing the job description, both the Director of Corporate Services and the Director of Development Services positions will be posted.
Rick Kasper: And one’s a union bargaining position and one’s a …
SPN: The union bargaining position referenced by Kasper is probably the formerly mentioned Deputy Corporate Officer position.
Teresa Sullivan: The bargaining position job descriptions that we are currently reviewing …
SPN: Councillor Ebony pulls conversation back to the Corporate Officer, as per the motion.
Ebony Logins: I think that … Sorry to interject but I think that I was misunderstood. The position of Corporate Officer should be posted, not the Deputy Corporate Officer.
Teresa Sullivan: We are doing both.
SPN: By now, there is a mash-up of up to three job descriptions being discussed: Two newly amalgamated Director Positions (one incorporating the Corporate Officer position) and one half-vacant Deputy Corporate Officer.
Ebony Logins: So why are we appointing… so we are just appointing interim?
Teresa Sullivan: “Acting.”
Ebony Logins: And that was the discussion you were just…. OK…
Rick Kasper: Does that answer your question?
Ebony Logins: That answers that question.
Teresa Sullivan: And with respect to the CUPE job description, that we’re reviewing right now, I don’t anticipate any competitions unless something comes vacant.
Rick Kasper: Does everyone understand the motion then?
Brenda Parkinson: No. I do have a question. So Gabryel is appointed as Acting Corporate Officer but the position will be posted for…?
SPN: Sullivan inserts “Acting” it into the newly amalgamated and modified job title, to be competed.
Teresa Sullivan: The Director of Corporate Services and Acting Corporate Officer. Once the job description is done, the position will be competed…
SPN: Councillor Parkinson continues to seek clarity on the motion on the table, in print in the agenda, about the Corporate Officer assignment.
Brenda Parkinson: for the Corporate Officer, correct?
Teresa Sullivan: … as the combined job description. We are doing the same thing we did in Development Services with respect to integrating a department and saving some salary costs. So, the combined position of Director of Corporate Services and Acting Corporate Officer will have one job description, and that job description will be posted.
Brenda Parkinson: So what happens … he might not have a job then? Sounds odd.
Rick Kasper: Well, that’s how it works, and that’s the process, so that’s …
Brenda Parkinson: Wow.
Teresa Sullivan: It’s no different than our Director of Development Services.
SPN: Councillor Logins moves on to a second concern, about the purported savings detailed in Sullivan’s opening report.
Ebony Logins: I have a question about savings on salary costs. So you said approximately $75,000 … Does that include the cost of the position of Director of Corporate Services?
Teresa Sullivan: Yes.
Ebony Logins: So, really, that position’s only been around for a couple of months, so it’s probably actually costing us more to have both positions.
Teresa Sullivan: Right now it is.
Ebony Logins: And it still will. It’s not really a savings compared to last year’s budget.
Teresa Sullivan: Well we do have an issue with respect to our former Corporate Officer and the package that she received. So, eventually it will be savings but right now they’re both on our payroll.
SPN is not too sure how the former Corporate Officer’s exit package is relevant to this conversation.
Ebony Logins: But comparatively, last year’s salaries to this year’s salaries …?
Teresa Sullivan: We’re still saving money, we’re still saving approximately … and don’t quote me … but approximately $23,000.
Ebony Logins: So the actual savings would be about $23,000?
Teresa Sullivan: Yes.
Ebony Logins: Thank you.
Rick Kasper: And also because there’s been no filling of the Deputy position in Finance, which did deal or indirectly dealt with HR requirements, correct?
Teresa Sullivan: Correct
Rick Kasper: Anybody else? I’ll call the question: All those in favour of the motion?
(Reay, Pearson and Kasper raise their hands)
Rick Kasper: Opposed?
(Parkinson and Logins raise their hands.)
Rick Kasper: The motion is carried.
Why this conversation matters, beyond what was reported in the minutes
First, while the motion itself was rarely discussed, three upcoming job postings were suggested: Director of Corporate Services (combined with the role of Corporate Officer); Director of Corporate Services; and, Deputy Corporate Officer. One of the three, the Deputy Corporate Officer’s job has been posted. It’s been six weeks. SPN is patiently waiting for the competitions of the other two Director jobs. We will happily post them. No charge.
Second, the lack of precision on costs and savings on a direct, non-competed (as per the original motion) appointment causes SPN some concern. The reported savings dropped a staggering $52,000, going from $75,000 at the beginning to $23,000 by the end.
SPN would like to actually cost that. We requested a salary amount for the newly created Directory of Corporate Services (to which Gabryel Joseph was assigned without competition) from then-acting Mayor Rick Kasper. In an emailed response to our request, Kasper replied “The 2016 SOFI will be made available to the public in June of 2017.” SOFI stands for the Statement of Financial Information, released annually by the District.
Incomes over $75,000 are reported in the SOFI. And since savings are being claimed, and since that salary should be publicly available, SPN would like to NOT have to wait until the summer of next year to do the math. We have since asked Mayor Tait for the numbers. Should we receive them before the summer of 2017, we will report back to SPN readers.
The 2015 SOFI puts the Corporate Officer’s salary at $96,998. The sole director salary on that list was higher (the Director of Finance earned $112,789). Assuming that the Corporate Officer reports to the Director of Corporate Services, well, let’s just say that SPN is very interested in knowing that that salary is. The purported savings might actually be an additional expense.
Third, the role of the Corporate Officer is crucial to any municipality: By law, that is one of three entities that must exist. The Community Charter stipulates that according to by-law a Municipality must have the three following groups in order to legally exist: A Council, a Director of Finance, and a Corporate Officer.
From the Community Charter, Division 5 section 146:
146 A council
(a) must, by bylaw, establish officer positions in relation to the powers, duties and functions under sections 148 [corporate officer] and 149 [financial officer],
(b) may, by bylaw, establish other officer positions, and
(c) may assign powers, duties and functions to its officer positions.)
Please keep in mind that the above is straight from the Community Charter. There are also interpretations and nuances of which SPN may not know, and this amalgamation of the Corporate Officer into a Director of Corporate Services job description may be allowed. The above does, after all, state that the officer positions must cover the duties and functions of a Corporate Officer.
As we learn more, we will share it with our readership.
SPN is carefully watching. And learning. And reporting back to the tax paying citizens of Sooke.
Input from political wonks, politicians and the public are, as always, welcome here on SPN.
The next municipal election is scheduled for October 20, 2018.