The District of Sooke quietly** hosted a special 20 minute meeting on Wednesday, August 3 with the single agenda item to appoint the interim fire chief, Russ Cameron.
Elected officials present at the meeting were Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Rick Kasper, Kevin Pearson and Kerrie Reay. The meeting started at 6:00 p.m.
Two motions were made and carried at that meeting. The first was the official appointment of Russ Cameron as interim fire chief for Sooke for a period of three months. The second was a directive to staff to look into recognizing the services of Steve Sorensen, the former fire chief, by way of a key to the district.
Fire chief’s pay
Councillor Kevin Pearson asked if the remuneration of the fire chief is in line with that of other districts within BC.
“We will absolutely must take a look at the compensation that the former chief was receiving,” responded T.eresa Sulliva.n, Sooke’s CAO. “It is not in line with the rest of the Chiefs in British Columbia.” Sullivan will present that information in a report she is currently working on.
An ASIDE, brought to you by SPN: FYI Career Fire Fighter’s remuneration, Sooke and vicinity
According to the recently released Statement of Financial Information, Sooke has five career fire fighting professionals with incomes over $75,000. Those 2015 incomes, from highest to lowest, were as follows:
- Matthew Barney, Assistant Fire Chief: $149,613.79 ($1552.72 in expenses)
- Rick McLeod, Deputy Fire Chief (since retired, no replacement position posted): $148,768.51 ($75.00 in expenses)
- Cameron Norris-Jones, Fire Fighter: $118,136.24 ($633.87 in expenses)
- Christopher McCrea, Fire Fighter: $112,747.70 ($450.00 in expenses)
- Steven Sorensen, Fire Chief: $110,622.03 ($3,642.04 in expenses)
For comparison purposes according to their respective 2015 SOFI reports, the Victoria fire chief’s pay was $171,644.71; in Langford it was $ 151,611.54; in Colwood it was $133,371.39; and in Duncan it was $86,033.15.
According to the most recently available statistics (2011) Sooke’s population (11,435) falls between that of Colwood (16,093) and Duncan (4,932).
Definitive closure for outgoing fire chief
Pearson noted that in his line of work, new contracts were not signed until old ones were firmly concluded. Outgoing fire chief Sorensen is currently on vacation, which ends (along with his employment) on October 17.
“He has signed a retirement letter and a letter of confidentiality,” stated Sullivan, “so I don’t expect him to return to the job.”
Soresen’s appointment as fire chief was rescinded as a part of the first motion.
New fire chief not living in Sooke
Pearson noted the new interim chief Russ Cameron does not live in Sooke and asked, “Does he understand that he’s on call? and, how are we going to deal with that?”
“He is fully aware of that,” responded Sullivan, clarifying, “He has committed to being available to the District whenever he is required to be available.”
Longer hiring window not required
Councillor Kerrie Reay asked that the language of the motion be changed to allow staff to amend the timeline of the hiring if required, to up to four or five months.
“I just think three months is an awfully short period of time to get somebody in place,” noted Reay on observing it was a nationwide search. As the recent Chair of the Hiring Committee that hired Sooke’s current CAO, she is speaking from experience. That Hiring Committee first met on September 10, posted the job widely two weeks later, and made their hiring recommendation to Council on November 30 (after about nine hours of in-camera meetings that SPN can account for).
The CAO said she wanted to respect the new chief’s parameters and the the existing three month appointment.
“We can always try to control cajole him later,” Sullivan added. [Aug 8, 2016: Read the full correction and SPN apology here.]
Recognition for outgoing fire chief
The motion was made by Pearson (seconded by Reay) to recognize former Sooke fire chief’s 36 years of service by way of a Key to the District or naming a street in Sooke after him.
Motion (from the draft minutes, see below): “THAT staff investigate and prepare a formal ceremony format for the official retirement ceremony of Fire Chief Sorensen; AND include a formal recognition reflective of his service e.g. a ‘Key to the District’, a street name, etc.”
It was noted that a number of events are currently being planned, by the volunteer fire fighter and the District of Sooke. Special financing arrangements were discussed.
Additional information requested by SPN
Since we just found out about this meeting, SPN has put in a request for additional information to the District early Friday morning. As of the time that this article was published, we have not yet heard a response. Should we hear we will add the information as an addendum to this article or post it separately, whatever is most appropriate. The questions we asked included:
- Is Russ Cameron operational or administrative? Chief Sorensen was an operational Chief, meaning he was First-Responder certified, NFPA trained and current, and he was (anecdotally) often first on the scene.
- If the new chief is administrative, will the operational gap be covered by the (recently reduced) overtime budget?
**According to Bylaw 422 (pages 3 and 4), the District is required to give 24 hours notice of Special meetings, and post a “copy of the notice in the Council Chambers at Municipal Hall; …[and] at the Public Notice Posting Places.” SPN has no idea where these Public Notice Posting Places are. No notice was given to SPN and nothing was posted on the District’s own News page.
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