Driv­ing Mr. Coderre

Chauf­feurs for mayor and ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee cost $337,000 a year

Montreal Gazette - - City - LINDA GYULAI lgyu­lai@mon­tre­al­gazette.com twit­ter.com/Ci­tyHal­lRe­port

Mon­treal­ers will pay $337,000 to three driv­ers to chauf­feur Mayor De­nis Coderre and mem­bers of the city ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee in 2016.

The fig­ure, which has not been made pub­lic be­fore, emerged on Thurs­day af­ter a brouhaha over the cre­ation of an ad­di­tional $200,000-a-year po­si­tion to chauf­feur the mayor de­vel­oped at a pub­lic hear­ing on the city’s $5-bil­lion 2016 bud­get.

A line men­tion­ing the cre­ation of a $200,000-a-year mayor’s chauf­feur po­si­tion in a break­down of the city bud­get caught the at­ten­tion of op­po­si­tion Pro­jet Mon­tréal coun­cil­lor Syl­vain Ouel­let.

“There was a line say­ing ‘ad­di­tion of a full-time equiv­a­lent driver’ ... at a cost of $200,000,” said Ouel­let, a mem­ber of coun­cil’s fi­nance com­mit­tee, which has been hold­ing pub­lic hear­ings on the pro­posed 2016 bud­get all week. “So I asked, ‘Does that price in­clude the car’?

“I get the im­pres­sion that power is go­ing more and more to De­nis Coderre’s head.”

The $200,000 doesn’t in­clude the car. It does, how­ever, in­clude ben­e­fits and over­time for the driver and over­time for two ex­ist­ing city driv­ers who chauf­feur high­rank­ing mem­bers of city coun­cil, as­sis­tant city man­ager Jac­ques Ulysse said.

The chauf­feur po­si­tion is be­ing cre­ated within the bud­get of the city’s real-es­tate man­age­ment and plan­ning depart­ment, for which Ulysse is re­spon­si­ble.

Coderre, like his pre­de­ces­sors go­ing back at least 20 years, gets his own full-time driver who comes from the ranks of the city ’s mu­nic­i­pal se­cu­rity guards.

The city has three se­cu­rity guards, who are mem­bers of the city’s blue-col­lar union and who are paid about $53,000 a year plus ben­e­fits, as­signed to drive the mayor, the chair­man of the city ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee and other mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. The lat­ter group shares the ser­vices of a driver. How­ever, Coderre’s des­ig­nated driver this year has been one of his po­lit­i­cal staffers rather than a city em­ployee. Ulysse ex­plained to the Mon­treal Gazette that in 2015 Coderre’s driver has been paid from a bud­get en­ve­lope that cov­ers the mayor’s po­lit­i­cal staff.

Coderre makes use of a chauf­feur seven days a week and about 12 to 14 hours a day, Ulysse said. The bluecol­lar union ob­jects to the sched­ule, he said, so the po­si­tion was moved into the po­lit­i­cal staff bud­get.

In the past few years, the city has bud­geted for three se­cu­rity guards to chauf­feur the mayor and ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, and oc­ca­sion­ally a tem­po­rary ad­di­tional city em­ployee, he said. The bud­get hasn’t fore­casted over­time, so the cost of that has shown up at year’s end when the city com­pares what was bud­geted and what was ac­tu­ally spent, he said.

The new $200,000 full-time equiv­a­lent po­si­tion of mayor’s chauf­feur will in­clude his­toric over­time costs to pro­vide a truer pic­ture, Ulysse said.

When asked by the Mon­treal Gazette to tally what it costs in to­tal to chauf­feur the mayor and the mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, Ulysse said it’s bud­geted at $337,000 in 2016. And he in­sisted the an­tic­i­pated fi­nal cost in 2015 will be in the range of $330,000, de­spite the new $200,000-a-year po­si­tion.

But the fig­ures don’t con­vince Pro­jet Mon­tréal. “What’s really scan­dalous about it is that the $200,000 is be­ing added to the bud­get,” Ouel­let said, not­ing that an equiv­a­lent amount isn’t be­ing cut from else­where in the bud­get to re­flect that chauf­feur costs are merely be­ing lumped to­gether.

Mean­while, the bud­get for po­lit­i­cal staff in the mayor and ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of­fice is go­ing up, not down, in 2016, bud­get fig­ures re­veal.

The bud­get in 2016 to pay the equiv­a­lent of eight full-time po­lit­i­cal staffers in the of­fice of the mayor and the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee is $1.52 mil­lion. The bud­get was $1.5 mil­lion for the same num­ber of staff mem­bers this year. Coderre’s first full year in of­fice in 2014 saw a lower bud­get — $1.45 mil­lion — to pay a slightly larger staff of nine full-time equiv­a­lents.

No one in the mayor’s of­fice would re­spond to the Mon­treal Gazette’s ques­tions about the costs to chauf­feur Coderre.

Coderre’s press at­taché, Cather­ine Mau­rice, didn’t an­swer an email re­quest­ing com­ment. In­stead, Is­abelle Proulx-Hétu, an­swer­ing on be­half of Mau­rice, said in an email that ques­tions about the mayor’s chauf­feur should be re­ferred to Ulysse through the city’s cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fice.

What’s really scan­dalous about it is that the $200,000 is be­ing added to the bud­get.

De­nis Coderre

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