As a result of a freedom of information request additional clarity has emerged about the voluntary damage settlement given by North Saanich council to a staffer for his shabby treatment.

“Our primary interest is one of transparency for the municipal taxpayer,” says Stan Bartlett, chairperson of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, a citizen’s advocacy group that champions lower taxes, less waste, and more accountable municipal government.

On Dec. 15, 2014 the newly elected council at an in-camera meeting closed to the public authorized a payment of $28,600 to Rob Buchan, the chief administrative officer. It was based on a ‘CAO Salary and Contract Report’ dated Dec. 8 from Mr. Buchan.

The motion consisted of two items: Payment to Mr. Buchan for 1. “…general damages for pain and suffering as a result of the behavior of the former Council to include $25,000 plus the amount of $3,600 paid by him for legal fees for advice which total amount will not be subject to tax or other deductions; 2) Topping up his sick leave bank by the amount used relating to this Council behavior.”

At the time none of the above was made public by the council or reported by the media.

The actual cheque authorization for $28,600 was dated Dec. 31, 2014 and issued Jan. 28, 2015 to Mr. Buchan of the Municipality of North Saanich and entitled ‘damage settlement.’

The voluntary damage settlement only came-to-light in June 2016 when it was referenced in council minutes and listed in the 2015 District of North Saanich Financial Statement, Schedule of Suppliers of Goods and Services released in July 2016. A Peninsula News Review story July 19 prompted a statement from North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall who said the payment was not the result of any legal action or threatened legal action.

No costs or number of days was attached to the ‘damage settlement’ Buchan received for topping up his sick leave, sick days used as a result of the issues at the municipality between 2011-14.

During that three-year term four staff resigned, staff issues went to mediation, and eventually there was a turnover of councillors at the 2014 election.