Calgary Sun - - NEWS - SAMMY HUDES [email protected]­ @sam­myhudes

Ad­min­is­tra­tion is rec­om­mend­ing that coun­cil ask the city au­di­tor’s of­fice to fig­ure out the proper method of cal­cu­lat­ing coun­cil pay ad­just­ments, fol­low­ing “con­fu­sion” that arose from a con­tentious meet­ing in which one coun­cil mem­ber was ejected by his col­leagues.

The city pol­icy in ques­tion was at the cen­tre of the Dec. 17 meet­ing, when coun­cil voted

14-1 to eject Coun. Jeromy

Farkas for com­ments he made on­line about a mo­tion to freeze coun­cil­lor pay.

Since 2012, the city’s hu­man­re­sources depart­ment has used a for­mula to cal­cu­late an­nual changes to coun­cil pay based on a 12-month av­er­age of Al­berta’s av­er­age weekly earn­ings. That for­mula, cited by Farkas, would yield a pay bump of 2.37% in 2019, in­creas­ing coun­cil­lor salaries from $113,325 to $116,011.

But coun­cil mem­bers said a Face­book post by Farkas had dis­sem­i­nated “mis­lead­ing” in­for­ma­tion about a coun­cil de­ci­sion, in­clud­ing a record of a vote that never oc­curred.

His col­leagues were unan­i­mous in con­demn­ing the post since it con­tra­dicted state­ments made by chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Carla Male, which sug­gested coun­cil pay would ac­tu­ally de­crease in 2019. Male later said her sug­ges­tion was based on a dif­fer­ent pol­icy, one that made a sim­pler Septem­ber-to-Septem­ber com­par­i­son of weekly earn­ings.

In a re­port to go be­fore coun­cil Mon­day, ad­min­is­tra­tion rec­om­mends coun­cil di­rect the au­di­tor’s of­fice to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify the method that would be used to cal­cu­late changes to coun­cil pay for 2019 and re­port back to the city’s au­dit com­mit­tee in late Fe­bru­ary.

“The mood on coun­cil has al­ways been, and the agree­ment has been, no one wants an in­crease (in pay) un­der this en­vi­ron­ment,” said Coun. Ward Suther­land, who put forth the no­tice of mo­tion last month seek­ing to freeze coun­cil salaries in 2019.

Coun­cil voted to keep the sta­tus quo af­ter hear­ing they were likely al­ready headed for a pay de­crease. Coun­cil pay has been frozen at 2018 lev­els as the city sorts out the con­fu­sion.

“We should keep our nose out of it and they should come up with the for­mula that will be used from now on,” said Suther­land, adding he’ll ask for a re­con­sid­er­a­tion of his mo­tion if it’s de­ter­mined that the for­mula that gives coun­cil a pay bump.

“All I care about is that the au­dit’s go­ing to come up with the end re­sult and they’ll say this is the way we’re go­ing to cal­cu­late it, and then that bet­ter be the way we cal­cu­late it from now on so there’s no damn con­fu­sion,” he said.

Fur­ther study­ing which for­mula is cor­rect would be the wrong way to go, ac­cord­ing to Farkas. He said coun­cil pay should stay frozen at 2018 lev­els for this year, and in­stead have a five-mem­ber cit­i­zen com­mit­tee that ex­am­ines the city’s salary ad­just­ment for­mula re­view what for­mula is ideal.

“When it comes to this mat­ter, my pref­er­ence is just to call it re­solved with no blame or point­ing fingers. We have an op­por­tu­nity to say that both per­spec­tives were right, rather than go­ing through a te­dious process and ul­ti­mately hav­ing to as­sign blame,” said Farkas, adding “it shouldn’t be about who was wrong or right.”

“I think we can all agree that the more that this is­sue drags on, the more trust is lost at city hall,” he said. “Rather than go through the au­di­tor’s of­fice, let’s get the cit­i­zen group to­gether that takes a look at coun­cil com­pen­sa­tion and can ac­tu­ally ad­vise us on re­ally what’s the best for­mula to go with.”

Farkas said he’s in favour of keep­ing coun­cil pay lev­els the same through­out a four-year term, and hav­ing changes only ap­ply to fu­ture coun­cils.

A let­ter re­quest­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Farkas’ social me­dia post was sent to coun­cil’s in­tegrity com­mis­sioner last month, signed by all 14 of his col­leagues. Farkas said he hopes he and his col­leagues can move on and con­sider the mat­ter wa­ter un­der the bridge.


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