There sure was a rush on seats inside the 2014 Sunshine Club as outlined in a report to council Monday detailing City of St. Thomas public sector salary disclosure.
The city had a total of 96 employees who earned greater than $100,000, a more than 50% increase over the 2013 total of 62.
Breaking that number down, 33 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are now included, up from 16 in 2013.
Over at the fire department, 48 employees earned $100,000 or more in 2014 as compared to 32 the year previous.
And 15 city administrators exceed that figure, an increase of one over 2013.
Topping the earnings list at city hall was CAO Wendell Graves at $172,372 ($165,900 in 2013). John Dewancker, director of environmental services earned $139,693 as compared to $132,309 the previous year and Graham Dart, director of human resources, had a salary of $127,839 in 2014 ($124,784).
Over at the police service, Darryl Pinnell earned $162,833 in his first full year as chief and we had a lengthy chat with him Friday to ascertain what is behind the significant increase in those members of the force now included in the 2014 list.
As this corner has discovered over years of reporting on the Sunshine List, there are numerous factors — many of which cannot be controlled — that result in a year-to-year upward trend.
Pinnell was quite frank in his explanation and made no attempt to dodge any question or apologize for the salaries earned by the men and women on the force.
“A lot of it has to do with base salaries now,” he noted. “Things are getting up to the point where base salaries are getting close to that ($100,000) number. When you put in that retention or experience pay, most of the senior people are very close to that line.
“The base salary for a (first-class) constable in 2014 ranged anywhere from $88,000 to $96,000 (with 23 years of service). A sergeant’s base salary is over the mark.”
Several factors are worth noting, added Pinnell.
“All of our paid duties now go through our payroll. That would include extra paid duties for outside things, whether that salary is paid for by the city or by somebody else.”
This would include officers hired by a group or organization for security or policing beyond the normal call of duty.
“For example, St. Thomas Energy may from time to time pull down street lights at intersections and we would be paid through them but it all gets put through the police service. They do not pay the officers directly.
“And further to that, we have a number of specialty people who are full-time ident officers, criminal investigations . . . people who get called out on a regular basis for serious crime. And of course that overtime goes right on to their pay which gets reported as well.”
Pinnell was especially forthright about the relationship between serious crime and overtime charges.
One specific example, the Christmas Day 2014 death of Danny DiGiandomenico, owner of the Upper Deck Restaurant.
“In the first couple of days alone, our overtime costs were in the neighbourhood of $35,000. Those major incidents can have a huge impact because people are working on holidays and the shift premiums kick in. They become quite expensive.
“I can say last year our overtime budget and court budget, we were within our budget projections. We’re pretty good at monitoring that.”
Bottom line, the key factor at play here is base salaries and not necessarily overtime.
“I don’t make any apology for the money the officers make,” stressed Pinnell. “Criticism can be pretty easy until you put yourself in their shoes. I understand it’s a lot of money, but I don’t make any apology.
“A lot of it is contractually based and my job is to administer the contract, not settle it.”
Next week we’ll entertain the same discussion with fire chief Rob Broadbent.
ONE MORE KICK AT THE CAN
Will Coun. Mark Burgess have the opportunity Monday to engage debate on his motion for a Class B estimate for renovating the Colin McGregor Justice Building that keeps within the guidelines of Report ES-47-14 (dealing with the extent of renovations that can be undertaken without the need to seek a building permit) and does not include any expansion or addition to the existing building?
Coun. Jeff Kohler’s attempt earlier this month to push forward a similar undertaking was summarily dismissed as out of order by Mayor Heather Jackson.
Will she again employ a strong hand at the rudder and head this delaying — and resource-wasting — tactic off at the pass?
NOW WHAT’S BREWING?
It’s 3:20 p.m. Friday and the newsroom gets an email from city hall alerting to a special meeting of council to be held 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Special meetings of council are not unheard of but not a common occurrence either.
A scan of the one-page agenda indicates the gathering of council will take place behind closed doors.
The one order of business? “To deal with a matter protected under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,” the agenda states.
In other words it’s none of our business. Do you think we’ll be advised of what transpired? Not likely.
However under the Municipal Act, 2001, all definitive or final votes must be made in open session and the general nature of the vote disclosed so we will pursue this avenue.
While correct procedure was followed — notification of a special meeting and the issuance of an agenda — of greater interest, since this council is barely two months into its four-year term, is the number of special meetings called which are conducted in-camera.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“So the campaign here is really to open up the discussion about the future of the United Way to the broader community.”
United Way board member Serge Lavoie as the organization readies to launch its ‘Re-imagine’ fundraising/information campaign.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.