Sooke stonewalls on severance payout
ISSUE : Does the taxpayer have the right to know about the amount of severance paid to a public employee with the district of Sooke?
#1 Grumpy$ Press Release – Sooke stonewalls on severance payout (April 1, 2016)
With proposed property tax increases of 2.35 this year, escalating sharply to 4.57 per cent in 2017 and another 5.59 per cent in 2018, many District of Sooke taxpayers are wondering how much of the increase is due to any severance payments earlier this year to four senior staff. Last year there was a zero increase in property taxes.
On Dec. 14, 2015, Teresa Sullivan was appointed the new chief administrative officer for the District of Sooke and its 11,500 residents. She replaces Gordon Howie who completed a three-year contract. Since then three key managers departed in a matter of weeks: the corporate officer, finance director and city engineer.
Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria, a citizen’s advocacy group dedicated to accountable government, lower taxes, and less waste, has filed a freedom of information request asking for details about any severance pay. To date that information has not been released, due to objections by one or more of the senior staff.
The proposed five-year financial plan tabled at council March 14 shows however a major increase in salaries for corporate services for the District of Sooke, increasing substantially from $510,638 (2015) to $780,477 (2016). The benefit packages also jump from $81,298 (2015) to $134,873 (2016).
#2 Grumpy$ Press Release – District severance decision appealed
The District of Sooke has refused to release the amount of severance given to Bonnie Sprinkling, one of four senior staff members that left earlier this year.
Interestingly, Michael Dillabough and Elisabeth Nelson both left District employment voluntary and so no severance was paid, according to the results of a freedom of information request (FOI).
A fourth individual, Gordon Howie, left the district as his three-year contract had expired so no severance was paid.
Sprinkling, the former corporate officer, earned $96,998 in 2014, the last figures available and noted in the June 2015 financial statement, according to the District of Sooke.
Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, a taxpayers advocacy group, has appealed to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the District of Sooke decision not to release the severance amount Sprinkling received.
It’s argued the public has a right to know where it’s tax money is spent. As well, there is a need to add clarity for the public as opposed to creating speculation and fostering distrust of government.