Good news for taxpayers or a healthy dose of double dipping at STEGH?


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Have you heard St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital CEO Paul Collins retired last year? Likely not, since it’s a better kept secret than the mystery of the herbs and spices in finger-lickin’ good chicken.

But, you say, if that’s the case, why can Collins still be seen most days over at the hospital? Surely he must be coming in to lend a helping hand in a volunteer capacity.

To clear up the confusion, City Scope this week asked to speak with Collins . . . instead we were directed to Bruce Babcock, chairman of the STEGH board of directors.

As it turns out, Collins’ retirement lasted perhaps a day or two and then Babcock and the board rehired Collins and installed him in his former post at the same compensation, almost $205,000 in 2009, while drawing on his pension at the same time.

All of this came down last summer in a bevy of board meetings over a very short period of time.

As Babcock explains, “Paul was doing some personal retirement planning and in order to do that, he decided he was going to retire.”

Fair enough, so why was he hired back after a couple of coffees on his own time?

“The board, aware that he was going to retire, it left us in a position of what are we going to do for a CEO?” explained Babcock.

” We approached Paul and asked him after he retired would he be interested in the job as the CEO. And so we were able to come to an agreement with Paul on a contract which extends through to October 31, 2011. And that’s where it stands.

“This was in our view a good decision for us because it allowed us to retain the services of an experienced, capable CEO. There was no change to his compensation benefits. And there was a financial benefit to the hospital. It all kind of worked out in our mind to our advantage.”

And, obviously to the great advantage of Collins.

This has the decided look and feel of double dipping.

“If that’s how people perceive it, that’s up to them,” counters Babcock. “I can tell you there are many retired people who go out and seek employment. Some are able to find it, some are not.”

Yeah, as store greeters, school bus drivers and coffee servers. They certainly aren’t handed their job back on a golden platter, pension included.

The obvious next question, was the decision to beckon Collins back on to the playing field a unanimous decision by the hospital board?

“I can’t say one way or the other,” Babcock advised. “It was an in-camera meeting. There is no documentation available. I’m not going to comment on the vote.”

In other words, the board did not fully support the decision and it would be a safe bet to add some directors likely opted out of the vote.

If this is such a positive story for the hospital and will prove a savings for taxpayers, why was there no announcement heralding the good news?

“We chose not to do that, and we stand by that,” stressed Babcock. “We just don’t discuss those issues.”

So, what happens at the end of October?

“At that time we will do what we’ve done here, which is something that is in the absolute best interest of the hospital. That’s the bottom line and we feel strongly that we have.”

Make no mistake, there’s only one winner in this caper, and it’s not the taxpayer.

ROAD RAGE

With a push on right now at city hall to hold the line on departmental budgets, where is the sense in allowing four members of council to attend a good roads conference this spring in Toronto, at an estimated cost of at least $4,000?

At best, the mayor and the chairman of the environmental services committee (in this case Ald. Tom Johnston) should be the only individuals who warrant approval.

This should not be a free ride to a good time in TO.

Fiscal responsibility must begin with our elected officials.

A CELEBRATION OF HARVESTS  

A quick scan of Monday’s council agenda yields a meaty document entitled, Healthy Communities and Sustainable Development Consultation Report.

Included is a section on community gardens, with a view to amending the city’s official plan to deal with the bumper crop of controversy cultivated last summer in the garden of woes on Isabel Street.

We trust the chairman of the planning and development committee will rise to declare a conflict during this stage of the discussion.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There is a problem taking money out of a salary account to give it to make a $2,700 donation. The salary account is needed to pay salaries, not to make donations.”

Ald. Gord Campbell during debate Monday on a deal to transfer funds to the St. Thomas Fire Fighters Association in lieu of payment to members who volunteered their time at last September’s International Plowing Match.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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2 thoughts on “Good news for taxpayers or a healthy dose of double dipping at STEGH?

  1. COMPENSATION CAPERS

    Interesting piece on the compensation capers at STEGH involving Paul Collins, retired Resident and CEO, probably the best kept secret in St. Thomas in 2010 – just another chapter in the saga of transparency and accountability.
    To circumvent this type of shenanigans in the private sector, it is commonplace to find policies stipulating that any employee who retires cannot be rehired in any capacity for a defined period of time; usually 12 to 18 months. These policies are rigid and also anticipate and stymie management creativity by also stating the retired person cannot be rehired through a third party, such as a placement agency during this timeframe. This shuts down any gamesmanship and double dipping.
    Apparently no such Human Resource Policy exists at STEGH. It probably should. Which brings to mind another point; where is the succession planning and why was Collins replacement not already identified?
    If it’s true that there is no policy to prevent double dipping and there was/is no succession plan for the President and CEO, you have to seriously examine the role of Human Resources and the Board of Directors.
    Short term the City should consider reducing any support/transfer payment to the STEGH in 2011 by the estimated $205,000 being shelled out to Collins – perhaps that action alone will generate some traction at STEGH to remedy the problem of “double dipping”. Do we have anybody on City Council who could advance these concerns on behalf of the residents of St. Thomas?

    QUOTE FOR THE WEEK

    Curiosity is the key to journalism. ~ Sir Harold Matthew Evans

  2. The left certainly played a big role in electing a right-leaning mayor here in good ol’ TO! Rob Ford won easily although he was accused of double-dipping. (He sure was – he owns a profitable firm, so he also collected – then donated/kicked back – his city councillor’s salary.) His motto “let’s stop the gravy train” rang a loud bell, including us “left-of-centre” and other “leftists” who were tired of being used/abused/taken for granted by the cozy gang dominating City Hall.
    Also, 50% of vehicles in Toronto on any given day were not registered in the city, so they didn’t pay the hated $60 tax that was tacked onto our regular $74 license renewal sticker. Only in Toronto, you say? That’s right. It’s the “City of Toronto Act” that McGuinty allowed, giving us the only city in the province the right to tax! The new mayor’s edict to city departments: “cut your budget by 5%, or I’ll get someone who will!”
    Maybe the gravy train has finally left the station…

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