While SPN can’t report on Council’s discussion of the 2018 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) Report (the Youtube video tanked just over an hour into the meeting), it is interesting to note that the SOFI contains one severance report, where one non-union employee received an 11 month-payout for severance.
That little outside-of-the-box hire (where the hiring committee chair was an acquaintance of the hire but never declared a conflict of interest) was an incredibly costly fiasco implemented by the former council, creating a financial burden born by the taxpayer that goes far beyond the dollar amount indicated in the SOFI.
Costs of that under-qualified hire far exceed severance pay. Consider the invention of a Director’s position filled by a friend, historically unparalleled training costs, parking lot contract fiascos, infrastructure repair delays (stairs to boardwalk), a celebrated sidewalk on Grant Rd that turned into a bicycle lane, an incorrectly assigned business licence that probably result in legal action, and in all likelihood other legal messes to which the public have no information access.
There was also the political embarrassment of the District’s attempt to redefine the Canadian Charter’s Freedom of Expression (according to the administration, anything uttered had to be constructive.) Not to mention the SLAPP suits threats of legal action against SPN in an attempt to have several article removed, and extreme efforts taken to silence the public (again, letters threatening legal action and a dramatically staged all-staff walk-out when one member of the public sought Council audience). Or the loss of historical knowledge in the ousting of the old-guard. Yeah, the list goes on.
It was a dark segment of Sooke’s political history.
And, while it’s easy to lay the blame on the hire, the responsibility for this rests squarely on the laps of those that made the hire, the Council-only hiring committee plus the support of one additional councillor who tipped the majority in an in-camera meeting. Information that SPN has turned up in research (and information that would have been equally available to the Council-populated hiring committee had they dared to look) shows that the candidate was simply not qualified. When SPN attempted to inform the elected officials of the facts we found, it took about nine months to be heard. And that eventual meeting ended up being a weepy and accusatory session on how SPN has ruined the life of one of the politicians; we never got around to exposing the facts.
In a nutshell: don’t blame the applicant who moved heaven and earth to get a well-paying job without being appropriately qualified (and truly, some jobs can be grown into!); blame those who made the hire without doing their due diligence.
It was a magnificent example of how politicians can, upon election, close their ears and minds to external input. And, it was fine display of how important it is to continually remain open to input and new information. Knowledge is never definitive; it’s an evolution.
So, the severance pay mentioned in the recently released SOFI report, while measured in time (11 months severance pay to a non-union employee), it probably amounts to somewhere between $120,000 and $130,000. But that dollar amount is truly just a drop in the bucket of the actual costs associated with a very bad Council decision.
Here’s hoping this current council learns from past mistakes.
Final thoughts to consider
As a final word, I’d also like to point out that most of the magnificent muck-ups were not covered by any other media. The continued financial erosion of SPN means that even if the same were to happen today, I could not afford to cover it. It takes dedicated resources to cover this type of stuff, and I’m now working elsewhere on a part-time basis. I’ve already had to decline a number of stories, because I don’t have the time to research the details.
If you truly value local reporting, support it.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
When independent news disappears—and trust that it is systematically being dismantled—who will be left to unearth the incompetence, to dig below a headline, to give you a platform when you need to speak to a community larger than your echo chamber?
And even if it’s not SPN that you chose to support, please consider supporting whatever local independent currently providing the coverage you read and trust.
-Britt Santowski / SPN