Thursday, December 9, 2010

Retirement Party Follow-up

Last Friday I had a meeting with Mayor Bob Codner regarding the expenditure for a party that was held at the Bella Vista for a retiring town employee. I expressed my opposition to using tax dollars to pay for this type of function and he disagreed with my position on the matter.

The mayor assured me that this particular recognition was warranted and that he certainly doesn’t feel that it was out of order. He spoke about how this is another aspect of running the town and he referred to it as the softer side of things as apposed to other town services like water and sewer, garbage pickup and snow clearing.

He tells me that this is not a typical situation and that not all employees would receive this type of send off upon leaving the employment of the town. Bob feels that some long term employees of the town have not always been treated fairly and their working situations have been less than desirable. He spoke of the fact that in the past employees who have been working for the town for many years have basically entered into retirement with nothing in terms of financial support such as a pension.

As the Mayor put it, when one looks at the situation as a whole you can see the rational behind their decision which was unanimous among town staff and council. The intent was to show an appreciation to this worker for his years of dedication to the town and that he was an integral contributor to maintaining town services over the years. As is often the case the true contribution of an employee may not be fully recognized by the general public in the same way it is seen by council and staff.

While I agree that it is appropriate to honour long time employees and show appreciation for their years of dedication, I also feel we could do it in a more responsible manner as it relates to tax payers money. If the ultimate intent is to demonstrate to an employee appreciation for their service to the town, wouldn’t it make sense to allow the residents of the town to participate some how? Why wouldn’t we make it known to the general public what a great public servant this person was and how valuable they have been over the years. Instead we usher them off in retirement with a dinner party with a few of their friends and coworkers and the tax payer gets the bill.
I asked how much this party cost and I was told that it was in the range of $6000.00. I also asked if we are going to have this type of function why couldn’t we have it in the Town of Torbay. I was assured that they did explore that option but in the long run it was cheaper and easier to do it at the location they chose. With that in mind and the knowledge that there are still a few long term employees left at council this type of event may happen again. I would hope that the town would refrain from these expenditures in the future but my impression is that they won’t. If the town is going to have a similar recognition of an employee I suggest to them to make every effort to have it within the boundaries of our town. If the cost for a similar event is greater in the town then maybe they should think about having something cheaper and co-workers paying their own way like they do in most other public institutions.

I have been pursuing this story for several months now and have heard from many people who are against using tax dollars this way. However when I mentioned to the Mayor that I have spoken to many people who think this type of expenditure by council is wrong he expressed to me that the people who he has spoken to have been in favour of it. This tells me a couple of things, first of all Bob is not talking to the same people I am. Secondly where are all the complaints? It is no good for people to express to me how disturbed they are and that I should do this and I should do that with regards to inquiring about these and other matters. If council is not hearing from residents about particular issues then they can assume that people are happy. Then when one person starts complaining council may shrug it off and attribute it to an isolated event.

If people really want to have a say in how our town is run and how we move into the future then you need to speak up. It is no good to sit back and complain to each other if there is something happening that you don’t agree with. On the flip side of that if you like something council has done it is a good idea to tell them that as well so that favourable initiatives are encouraged and council can make decisions based on how residents feel instead of just assuming we feel a certain way.

One of the things I give credit to the councillors that I have been involved with is that they have been forthright and open when it comes to communicating with me and that includes town staff as well. People should take advantage of the fact that they have a right and in my opinion a duty to question their elected representatives and have their concerns addressed.