The Community Living Elgin memorandum popped up in mysterious fashion at the City Scope inbox to announce executive director Tom McCallum has opted to retire from the organization.
The timing of his decision raised eyebrows in that Community Living Elgin appeared to have fared well in a Ministry of Community and Social Services’ financial and accountability review, the results of which were released at the end of November.
You would think McCallum — no relation — would seek to move forward with his containment/modernization plan announced in August designed to address an estimated $700,000 deficit.
Also out of place was the retirement announcement, authored by board president Robert Ashcroft.
While it contained high praise for McCallum, there was nary a quote or parting comment from the soon-to-be-departed head.
Which prompted this reporter’s rumination McCallum may have faced pressure — subtle or otherwise — from the board of directors to pursue the retirement route.
That resulted in a good-natured email from Michelle Palmer who opened with the observation, “It is great to feel welcomed into the St. Thomas community and I appreciate it greatly.”
The greeting was in response to the Dec. 10 article in the Times-Journal which touched on the timing of McCallum’s retirement.
Palmer continued in her email, “Tom was not asked or encouraged to retire from Community Living Elgin. He had been talking about it for quite some time.”
Then that must be the case as Palmer is the executive director of Community Living Elgin and will provide leadership here in St. Thomas for the next year or so.
We talked at length with Palmer on Thursday to get a sense of what the future holds at the embattled organization which has endured picket lines, program cuts and the spectre of pending staff cuts.
“In the real short term, let’s get through the next week or two where I have the opportunity to interact with as many people as I can. Then we’re going to take a break for Christmas.
“In January, Palmer continued, “I’ve already told staff and people supported that I’ve met so far that I want to do a tour and see every single location where people are receiving supports.”
Palmer stressed she is an “open” person.
“You get what you see. And I hope to try working toward fostering that trust.”
And what lies in the cards for the balance of the new year? Palmer talked of “excitement” at the organization.
“In the longer term, I certainly want to see the organization get back to where it used to be. Let’s create that excitement, let’s create that trust, let’s continue to focus on the fact the people supported come Number 1.
“That has got to be our focus. If we all believe that all people have the right to be successfully supported in the community, that can be the one thing we have as common ground to keep moving forward.”
Is it important then to meet with a group of concerned parents who have struggled to have the former executive director and the board address their concerns about the status of services available to their family members?
Especially in light of this comment from one board member who huffed in an email, “I have a feeling that even if we were to address all these concerns, it would still not be enough to satisfy this group.”
“Of course all families are important,” stressed Palmer. “And to isolate it to one group of families, to me my focus is to all families. I am already in the process of inviting them to a meeting with me in early January.”
Next month then would appear to be a pivotal 31 days in Palmer’s interim leadership stint at Community Living Elgin.
Tom, Bob . . . talk to us, we’re waiting
Community Living Elgin cuts will improve quality of life in what way?
A WARM WELCOME?
No, make that disgusting.
The tone of numerous individuals who posted comments to the Times-Journal Facebook page regarding a story this week dealing the imminent arrival of Syrian refugees in St. Thomas and Elgin.
The remarks were vile and smacked of fear-mongering. We will not repeat a word of any one of those comments. They do not warrant further exposure.
However we will document the responses of some readers who were obviously shocked at the mean-spirited, if not racist remarks that defiled the page.
“There are so many horrible minded people in this city it actually embarrasses me,” wrote Lisa Christine.
“I am truly disgusted by some of these comments. Its 2015 people lets start acting like it,” added Dawn Davidson Grant.
“I’m surprised and embarrassed by the majority of the comments shown,” agreed Cathy Mcgregor Smith.
And finally, “How about we remember to be kind, recognize how privileged we are and feel free to volunteer to “help our own” and our new-comers,” encouraged Shannon McGuigan.
Surely these observations better reflect the prevailing attitude of this community we call home.
FLAG FLAP FOLLOW-UP
How disappointing our city manager and council felt the need to adopt a flag protocol after the delay in lowering the flag at city hall on Remembrance Day.
The solution really is quite simple, advises reader Judy MacDonald.
“Do you think the city will have to set up a committee to arrange the protocol for the raising and lowering of our flag?” Judy writes in an email.
“Or maybe they could just follow the rules already set by our Canadian Heritage. I have attached the link below. Please feel free to pass it on to our council. This could avoid the hiring of a consultant.”
The link referred to by Judy is the federal government’s Canadian Heritage site at http://bit.ly/1O0JCuQ.
It doesn’t get any easier, does it?
Proof we can put aside our differences
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I’ve told the staff I don’t have a magic bucket of money in my pocket but that doesn’t mean we have to close the door on discussions and strategizing and figuring this out together.”
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How sad that you have continued to make negative remarks about Tom McCallum even as he announces his retirement. Through the months of turmoil at CLE, no effort has been made to cast him in any kind of positive light. I even offered personally to share how positively this man has impacted my family. Yes, there are many families who don’t “like” him, but there are just as many more who have a huge amount of respect and admiration for the man. How about, instead of trying to make this all into a mystery or that his retirement is something forced on him or that he should be ashamed of, do next week’s City Scope in the positive impact Tom McCallum has had on this community. Did you even read the retirement announcement that just briefly outlined Tom’s commitment to our community and, in fact the provincial community of disabled persons? After all of his years of dedicated service, it would be nice to send him off in an honorable, gracious and respectful manner. He deserves that much from our community.
We would very much like to cast Tom in the best light possible. Trouble is he doesn’t return phone calls to talk about himself or Community Living Elgin in general.
Why don’t we start with his salary, which has remained stable the past few years but his taxable benefits topped the $15,000 mark in 2014.
If salary is really what you think is necessary in a respectful parting article, why not start then with the fact that his salary, according to your own column, was $145,000 seven years ago. I don’t know of any other ED’s who have had their salary reduced by about 30% while continuing to do the same work under increasingly more challenging conditions. But you want to shame him for taxable benefits in just the last year that aren’t even equal to half of his reduction??
The reason Tom’s salary was so high that year was due to overtime management received during a labour dispute. The fact managers received overtime is questionable in itself. The following year his salary returned to its normal amount so in no way did he take a cut in pay. As for taxable benefits, they have been in the $15,000 range for several years. An amount that far and away exceeds the taxable benefits of most managers wherever they may be employed. Normal taxable benefits for city hall managers is in the $1 to $2,000 range. Surely this raises questions.
Hi Ian I am enjoying our lively discussion. Manager making overtime? Was it perhaps due to the strike in 2007? Remember when the union, who publicly brag that they have the best interest of their clients at heart, went on strike and the non-unionized staff were left to continue the necessary support for these clients? The strike by unionized employees who, I have been informed, now earn among the highest wages as compared to other Community Living employees in Southwestern Ontario. Isn’t that, perhaps, where much of the current financial shortfall came from? I’m all for support staff making a living wage, but when the provincial government sanctions the pay equity then sits back and watches agencies struggle with the financial ramifications of that decision, why is the Executive Director to blame? Cheers!
~diane~ â You must be the CHANGE that you want to see in the worldâÂ — Mahatma Gandhi Â Â
Absolutely the result of the 2007 strike. But he is a salaried employee and not on an hourly wage. So how was it determined the overtime salary he would receive? The number of hours he would work? Whether in fact those hours were required? Who took care of and approved the accounting. About $40,000 in overtime . . . that is far more than many residents of St. Thomas earn in a year.
The issue here is not solely union wages but pay equity. A provincial matter that dates back years.