Majority of council, Recovery Committee rejected post-fire compensation


Majority of council, Recovery Committee rejected post-fire compensation
  1. Majority of council, Recovery Committee rejected post-fire compensation
    fortmcmurraytoday.com
    A majority of Wood Buffalo council members kept their promise to reject the large pay raises council approved last June, according to 2016 financial statements published by the…
    Alberta

A majority of Wood Buffalo council members kept their promise to reject the large pay raises council approved last June, according to 2016 financial statements published by the municipality.

In addition, three members of the nine-member Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee have claimed $39,649 in compensation as of May 11, not including salary raises for full-time councillors on the committee, according to a Friday email from the municipality.

Of the three members who claimed compensation, committee chair Jeanette Bancarz claimed $27,298, Coun. Sheldon Germain claimed $6,953 and vice-chair Maggie Farrington claimed $5,398.

Recovery Committee compensation claims are eligible for coverage under the province's Disaster Recovery Program (DRP). The municipality was unable to confirm that the councillor raises were also refundable under the DRP by time of publication.

Both the council raises and the Recovery Committee compensation date back to last June, when council voted 7-4 to pass a bylaw creating the Recovery Committee. Mayor Melissa Blake and councillors Phil Meagher, Jane Stroud and Tyran Ault opposed the measure, wanting the issue of salary hikes to be studied first.

The vote meant full-time councillors would receive $150,000 a year, while part-time councillors would receive $75,000. All councillors were previously part-time, and on average were paid a $40,000 salary in 2015. The mayor’s salary was to rise to $150,000. Blake earned a salary of $137,245 in 2015.

Following public backlash, several councillors who supported the raises announced they would not accept them. Council members who said they would refuse the raise included Mayor Blake and councillors Ault, Meagher, Keith McGrath, Julia Cardinal, Claris Voyageur and Stroud.

Most, if not all, appear to have kept that promise.

Of Wood Buffalo's 10 councillors, four had a 2016 base salary of $38,995, including councillors Meagher, Ault, McGrath and Stroud. The next lowest compensation went to Coun. Lance Bussieres, who received a salary of $40,518.

Though he voted for the raise, Bussieres initially said he was undecided about accepting it. He eventually chose to refuse the money. Bussieres said Friday he did not know why his compensation was $40,518 instead of the base 2016 salary of $38,995 and that he had asked municipal administration for an explanation.

Blake, who opposed the raises, received a salary of $132,408 in 2016. In 2015, her salary had been $137,245.

Councillors Cardinal and Voyageur earned 2016 salaries of $47,581 and $43,555, respectively.

The Today could not confirm if any of the additional income reported for Voyageur and Cardinal were results of the June 2016 raises. Though both councillors originally voted for the raises, they later said they would not be accepting them personally. Neither could be reached for comment by time of publication.

Coun. Colleen Tatum, who voted in favour of the raise and said she would be accepting it, earned a salary of $49,104, compared to the average 2016 base salary of $38,995. Tatum could not be reached for comment by time of publication.

Councillors Vinni and Germain voted for the raises and never revoked their support for the additional compensation. Vinni earned a salary of $70,162, while Germain earned a salary of $67,896. Vinni could not be reached for comment.

In a comment via text message on Friday, Germain defended the raise as compensation for his full-time dedication to recovery efforts during the summer of 2016, adding that, at the time, he did not believe he would return to school in the fall.

"Being a full-time councillor as requested by my colleagues meant a pay cut for me and my young family, as it represented less compensation than my position as Vice-Principal at Holy Trinity High School and my…

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