PAY FREEZE FOR COUN­CIL

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - PAY FREEZE FOR COUN­CIL
City coun­cil voted to freeze their salaries in 2019 dur­ing a tense meet­ing Tues­day where old griev­ances prompted by the so­cial-me­dia post­ing of one coun­cil­lor were re­newed again.Coun­cil voted 14-1 to freeze their salaries at 2018-lev­els. Only Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi voted against the freeze, ar­gu­ing elected of­fi­cials shouldn’t in­ter­fere with a for­mula that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs pay each year.Tues­day’s de­bate be­gan as an at­tempt to ad­dress the “state of con­fu­sion” cre­ated in De­cem­ber when coun­cil first re­jected a pay freeze in a de­bate that re­sulted in the ejec­tion of Coun. Jeromy Farkas from cham­bers.At the Dec. 17 meet­ing, coun­cil voted to ex­pel Farkas over com­ments he made in a Face­book post. Farkas’s post could be un­der­stood to im­ply that coun­cil had voted them­selves a pay raise.Sev­eral coun­cil­lors ar­gued at the De­cem­ber meet­ing, and again on Tues­day, that they only re­jected the freeze be­cause they be­lieved a cut was com­ing thanks to the ad­vice of the city’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, Carla Male.Sub­se­quently, it emerged that Male’s ad­vice may have been wrong, that she had ref­er­enced a pay for­mula that dif­fers from the ac­tual cal­cu­la­tion prac­tice of the city’s hu­man-re­sources de­part­ment. Ac­cord­ing to HR’s prac­tice in re­cent years, coun­cil was set to re­ceive a pay bump of 2.37 per cent — a fact that Farkas re­peated in cham­bers dur­ing the meet­ing.While Tues­day’s meet­ing saw coun­cil re­solve the ques­tion of pay in 2019 with a vote to freeze salaries, frus­tra­tion over Farkas’s so­cial-me­dia post brimmed over again. Some coun­cil­lors sug­gested that Farkas had made a tar­get of them, leav­ing an im­pres­sion with the pub­lic that they were “pigs at the trough.”“What con­tin­u­ally hap­pens is the rest of us are made to look ter­ri­ble in the eyes of the pub­lic,” said Coun. Jy­oti Gon­dek, who said she’s been “at­tacked” while out with her fam­ily. “I’m ac­tu­ally beg­ging you to stop with the rhetoric.”Farkas stopped short of apol­o­giz­ing for his De­cem­ber post at Tues­day’s meet­ing, call­ing it a “mis­un­der­stand­ing” and sug­gest­ing that there was “re­gret on all sides.”His col­leagues were fu­ri­ous. A mo­tion from Coun. Sean Chu seek­ing to drop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the city’s in­tegrity com­mis­sioner into Farkas’s Face­book post was roundly re­jected in a 13-2 vote. Only Chu and Farkas voted in favour.“There is no apol­ogy here,” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra. “The fact is it’s disin­gen­u­ous to sug­gest that this was a mis­un­der­stand­ing. This was a de­lib­er­ate play.”Fol­low­ing the meet­ing Tues­day, Nen­shi said he agrees the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Face­book post should go for­ward.“This is­sue ul­ti­mately was not at all about whose for­mula was cor­rect — the is­sue was about many mem­bers of coun­cil feel­ing that a so­cial-me­dia post im­plied they did some­thing they didn’t think they did,” said Nen­shi.“What is the line there? And what can and should mem­bers of coun­cil say about their col­leagues? That’s re­ally what the com­plaint was about, and I think it’s im­por­tant for the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner to rule on it.”Nen­shi also said Farkas might have won a few more votes in favour of drop­ping the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had he apol­o­gized to his col­leagues.“I sus­pect it would have swayed some votes, be­cause likely that’s what the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner — if he finds that there was fault — that’s prob­a­bly what he’ll ask for.”Farkas said he was “dis­ap­pointed” that coun­cil wasn’t able to “bury the hatchet” Tues­day.“For my part, I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing able to pro­ceed without any hard feel­ings,” Farkas said.“I am dis­ap­pointed that this is go­ing to con­tinue to drag out. But, for my part, I’m not at all in­ter­ested in es­ca­lat­ing this and try­ing (to) get into some sort of fin­ger-point­ing ex­er­cise. We’ve spent enough time on this is­sue.”Changes could still be made to coun­cil­lor com­pen­sa­tion ahead of the next coun­cil term.A coun­cil com­mit­tee is cur­rently re­view­ing how coun­cil pay is de­ter­mined, as well as look­ing at ways to im­prove the op­er­a­tion of the vol­un­teer cit­i­zen com­mit­tee that makes rec­om­men­da­tions on com­pen­sa­tion ev­ery four years.

Jeremy Farkas was one of only two coun­cil­lors to vote in favour of a mo­tion to drop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the city’s in­tegrity com­mis­sioner into a so­cial-me­dia post that upset his coun­cil col­leagues.

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