UPDATE: Mayor, city councillors vote themselves pay raise behind closed doors

They Mayor of Revelstoke has voted himself a $6,000 raise and each of the six city councillors thought they were worth an extra $3,000 a year. Why? Who knows. The decision was made behind closed doors, with no public discussion or debate.

The Mayor of Revelstoke has voted himself a $6,000 raise and each of the six city councillors thought they were worth an extra $3,000 a year. Why? Who knows. The decision was made behind closed doors, with no public discussion or debate.

The decision only leaked out today, when the news appeared in a section of city council meeting minutes that provide bare-bones reports on behind-closed-doors ‘in camera’ discussions.

Currently, the mayor makes $22,000 annually, and the councillors get $11,000 each. Dec. 1, 2011 is the proposed date the raise will take effect, after the next election. Starting then, the mayor will make $28,000 and councillors will earn $14,000, plus expenses.

The changeover happens after the Nov. 19, 2011 civic election, so all civic politicians will have to earn the raise in a vote.

The raise is not unexpected. The Revelstoke Times Review expressed an editorial position advocating a council pay raise in this July 4, 2011 editorial. An ad hoc budget oversight committee also recommended a raise. That committee included many citizens who became involved in the 2011 budget process because of opposition to overspending at city hall.

How the pay raise happened is unexpected. Municipal councils typically discuss their raises in public, getting a staff report and then debating the raise for all to see. However, this council has chosen to discuss the raise behind closed doors. They cited a section in the Community Charter that says the item can be discussed behind closed doors because it is “labour relations or other employee relations.”

The clause typically exempts discussions involving union staff and non-union management, not elected officials.

The raise was bundled in with a series of other staff raises, increased perks, compensation increases and raises for senior city staff.

Senior staff will get a 1.25 per cent raise in 2010 and 1.25 per cent again in 2011.

Council also upped their per diem rates, but the minimal report doesn’t explain by how much. Staff and other personnel will also benefit from the increase.

Automobile allowance rates were also adjusted, but there is no supporting documentation to show exactly how much this increase will be.

A new policy was also introduced to compensate management staff during for overtime during emergencies.

The mayor was not immediately available for comment on Friday afternoon, though an administration staff spokesperson did say he would be available to speak on the matter on Monday.

An administration spokesperson said the staff raises were now in effect, but the council pay raise would have to go through a bylaw process. That bylaw will likely be introduced in the coming weeks, but did not appear on the Aug. 23 agenda.

UPDATE: August 23, 2011

Mayor David Raven said the council pay raise decision was made behind closed doors because it was bundled in with a report from the chief administrator that also involved the other staffing remuneration items.

Raven defended the raise. “We have never had a pay increase in 10 years,” Raven said. He added a staff report said the council raise brought them in line with other similar municipal councils in B.C. He also defended staff and council raises and adjustments to compensation for things like transportation, saying they were modest and in line with going rates.

Raven said it may be difficult to make the report that recommended the raise public because it also contains confidential staff issues.

“We can re-discuss it in public. The discussion is which councillors want it, which ones don’t. What would that gain?” Raven asked. “Which ones are in favour and which ones are prepared to do it for nothing, I guess is what you’re after?”

Raven added councillors were free to express their opinions at upcoming council meetings.

“Fair enough. If they want to voice opinions, re-open that debate, they could do that, but the decision was made in camera, and then brought back out because it had that sensitivity as a package with all of the management stuff that was going in there as well, and the personnel issues,” Raven said.

Raven questioned what was the issue: the raise or the optics, “Is it appropriate or is the timing correct?” he asked.

Do you have something to add to this story? A comment? An opinion? Contact Aaron Orlando directly at 250-814-8710 or email him at editor@revelstoketimesreview.com.