Coun. wants town salaries disclosed

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Coun. Alex Reed wants Town of Cochrane staff salaries to be made public in an effort to increase spending transparency.

Reed is seeking town administration to participate in the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act – an act that requires the disclosure of salaries and severances of all paid employees earning more than the annual threshold employed by the province.

He will be making the motion at the next council meeting on Jan. 8.

The provincial threshold for 2017 is $107,071 and the number of signed severances will not be disclosed until June 30, 2018.

It is voluntary for municipalities to take part and to set their own parameters.

“I think the citizens of Cochrane have the right to know what we pay our public servants, ” said Reed of his proposed “sunshine list. ”

While Mayor Jeff Genung is reserving comment until council debates the motion, some councillors have weighed in.

Couns. Morgan Nagel and Patrick Wilson would like to see the motion expanded beyond a threshold that would apply mostly to senior administration staff and support full disclosure of all town staff compensation.

“If we see a benefit for transparency of disclosing what higher-paid staff make, then I think we should bring the full picture … I don’t want to send a predatory message, ” said Nagel, adding listing by position and department without naming staff members is fair.

Wilson feels strongly that all paid public sector staff salaries should be made available to taxpayers, adding that the idea is transparency and not unfair targeting or singling out staff.

The act was passed by the NDP in 2015 in an effort to expand transparency for agencies, boards and commissions. Prior to the act, salaries and benefits of senior officials were disclosed in annual reports and disclosure included the position, not names.

“This legislation allows Alberta taxpayers to see where their dollars are spent, ” explained Banff-Cochrane NDP MLA Cam Westhead,

Coun. Susan Flowers is concerned the efforts will amount to little benefit, adding that Cochrane falls within the 60th percentile for compensation, or what is viewed as a good range.

“We want to keep good people and it costs a lot of money to recruit and train people … I just want to make sure we have good morale, ” she said.

Coun. Tara McFadden said the 60th percentile context is important but is a fan of efforts seeking transparency.

“Council salaries are public knowledge and I see this as very similar. It is important that we also communicate Cochrane’s overall remuneration policy for all our staff, ” said McFadden.

Coun. Marni Fedeyko said Reed’s motion addresses resident concerns over transparency.

“I believe the public should not only expect this of council but making sure we are making wise fiscal decisions. ”

Deputy CAO Suzanne Gaida said administration will await council’s decision on reporting thresholds, but confirmed there are other municipalities that disclose wages.

The Municipal Government Act currently requires municipalities to disclose the salaries of councillors, CAOs and designated officers.

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Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing. She has a knack for getting the scoop on stories and is a strong interviewer. The U of C and MRU English/Journalism graduate is committed to telling every story through a new lens, from a fresh perspective. Currently, her focus is on news and politics reporting, including town hall. She has a passion for providing a platform for underdogs, grassroots movements and those who have the courage to put themselves out there. She bases the strength of her stories on the depth of her connection with her interviewee, which is best done over too much coffee.