Gag Orders & Terminations Costing Us 1.5+ Million Dollars?
We hear a steady moan from our elected officials about the high costs of services, employees and benefits. Furthermore we see plenty of posturing about the high costs of “legal expenses” in Council and other departments. We also read about the lack of revenues and the high tax, low growth of the community. What is absolutely astounding is that nobody seems to be wondering just how much all these human resource changes are costing the Midland taxpayer.
When we do some quick math and a little digging, we find staggering sums of money flying out of the Midland purse to pay off long-term employees who have been shown to the door. Has anyone ever wondered why we heard nothing, we mean absolutely nothing from our last career fire chief who was ushered out the door after a mysterious leave of absence? There was money involved, there always is. That is the only way to mitigate wrongful dismissal lawsuits and a variety of other legal remedies when you are arbitrarily and summarily dismissed in secrecy and without any warning or proper process.
In speaking with a labour lawyer not connected with his case, we are led to believe that it would not be unusual to seek damages, or severance equal to at least two years salary and benefits… perhaps even paid out over time to accrue more “pensionable time”. Given this estimate let’s just say that Midland taxpayers were on the hook for $225,000 to see our last fire chief leave quietly never to speak a word about the circumstance of his untimely departure.
Next, let’s look at a few of the town’s more senior staffers who were terminated in 2015 during the CAO and Mayor McKay’s “reorganization”. Let’s throw another $300,000 in severance out there across the few of them which may not include the legal fees for the Town of Midland to defend their actions against wrongful dismissal lawsuits… we have not heard anything about these from the Town…
Now, there is the sudden ‘retirement’ of our Chief Librarian… Let’s say that the numbers for this fresh change of staff may come in at around $125,000.
The next one is easy… we were told how much it was going to cost to get rid of our police dispatchers and pay them off. That one is around $450,000.
Finally, we come to the now ex-CAO. She was in charge when the fire chief was terminated, retired or whatever vernacular was used around his untimely leaving, so she would be privy to that deal. It would be safe to assume that given her position, salary and years of experience, and the fact that she may have troubles finding other similar employment, she won’t stay quiet (and oh… the stories she could tell) for much less than $350,000.
She could pretty much ask for anything from the Mayor and get it. After all, she is the keeper of many secrets surrounding the issues that have caused this Council and two previous councils so much trouble, legal expense, turmoil and could shed light into lobbying and other political interference during her tenure as well as deeply embarrass the Mayor and some other members of council and the community. That silence is worth some real money.
Let’s just add up the approximated tax dollars spent so far and see how much this Council has wasted on covering up their misadventures… realizing full well that we have likely underestimated these values based on the legal opinions.
$225,000 – Fire Chief
$300,000 – Town Staffers (Deputy Treasurer, Food Services Manager etc)
$125,000 – Librarian
$450,000 – Police Dispatchers
$350,000 – CAO
$1,450,000 – Average that up to $1.5 MILLION DOLLARS
Why isn’t Council coming clean on these numbers? They are paying off their human resource decisions with tax money. We did not see any lines for these severances or buyouts in the new budget… where exactly are these funds coming from? What are the real numbers? Surely if their salaries are disclosable so are the settlements when they leave? How could our Mayor possibly justify this as secret?
If council and the CAO had followed their own “hiring freeze” from three years ago and not replaced normally-retiring staff, they would have found some real budget dollars but they chose to fill some positions and even create some new positions so that trying to find the savings versus costs became a shell game.
Labour lawyers say our figures may actually be quite conservative and we could be spending over $2 MILLION by the time the CAO settlement is finalized.
How bad off can we be if we can afford these unplanned and avoidable expenses along with the risk of these transactions coming to light and have questions like ours pique the interest of ratepayers who are financing this mess? Couldn’t a couple million dollars be far better spent in our community on projects, services and growth rather than as bribes and payoffs and non-disclosure agreements?