January 25, 2018

Town still won’t release termination costs

Mayor Al Alls says the Town of Erin is justified in not releasing the total of severance payments to terminated municipal employees over a five-year period.
“We’re doing it for legitimate reasons, to protect the privacy of individuals,” said Alls. The town is also concerned that the information could harm their position in legal proceedings, resulting in a cost.
Local media have requested the combined severance payments from January 2012 to August 2017, arguing that the release would not enable members of the public to know how much was paid to any individual former employee.
The town has received legal advice and decided not to release the figure, even though the County of Wellington and all other lower tier municipalities have been willing to do so. The issue has been appealed to the Ontario Privacy Commissioner.
Alls said that the town would only release the information if the commissioner orders it to do so.
There has been a major town staff turnover in recent years, including most senior managers. Some employees have been terminated, but some have left under other circumstances such as retirement. So not all would be normally entitled to a severance payment.
In a letter, resident Jane Vandervliet complained about how difficult it has been to get staff cost information from the town, or to get an enquiry about budgeting for severances onto the council agenda.
“Surely taxpayers have a right to know what such personnel upheavals are costing them,” she said.
“Isn't the Council the go-to place for taxpayers to direct such concerns?
“Last June I had attempted to get the Town of Erin to give me the severance totals for the past five years. I gave up as their buffaloing tactics worked. The reason I wanted the severance totals was so that I would be able to monitor the Town budget for employee wages and benefit totals.
“These assumed severance payouts, with the departure of so many long-term employees, would be extremely significant to a low population municipality like Erin.”