CAO RRSP payments questioned

Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures 10 kilowatt Solar PV system in Morrin Alberta at the water plant installed by Goose Creek Renewable Energy.
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Written by Submitted

Morrin Village Council motioned for Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner to provide a breakdown for all monies received by her since 2005, at the Nov. 21 regular Morrin meeting.

The report needs to go back to 2005 when the CAO started receiving RRSP contributions to present day, with the breakdown including the CAO’s base wage, bonuses, payment for extra meetings, mileage, Canada Revenue deductions, holiday pay and janitorial services.

John Siemens told council he had discovered that the CAO had overpaid her RRSP contribution by $100 in both 2016 and 2017; followed up by the CAO discovering she was underpaid by $100 in 2014 and $50 in 2008.

When questioned by Coun. Bob Graham what this accomplishes, Siemens responded, “It matters because when council decided on a wage increase, they need to know that the increase is on the base wage and not on the lump amount that has RRSPs, janitorial pay, and others included.”

“The increase could be a difference of $2,351 if it’s taken on lump amounts rather than the increase to be only on the base wage,” added Siemens.

Siemens had requested in his letter that accountants be hired and provided with minutes so that accurate auditing could take place. Coun. Graham asked what was to be expected for this audit.

He responded by saying “The breakdown should be something that adds up to the total of what Endeavour has at the end of the year as her total salary – how it was arrived at.”

Accountability and transparency

Joyce Webster, publisher of the ECA Review, made a request that the CAO provide the entire council package prior to the Morrin council meetings to the media as per the Municipal Affairs Act and further that the CAO answer phone calls and email requests from the media.

All of the documents included in a council package aside from closed session (formerly called in-camera) matters is public information.

Webster cited the wording in the Municipal Government Act (MGA) that states, “The CAO must relate to the public directly and indirectly and must be a professional manager whose actions are governed by high ethical standards.”

The MGA further states “To the press, the CAO is the source for local news or background information”.

“You do have the package,” Plachner pointed out.

“I’m talking about all the information, budgets, financial statements, letters, reports, everything that is tabled at the meetings,” continued Webster. “Now that the office has a new scanner you can scan, for example, those 82 pages [Municipal Accountability Review Report] and in a manner of a click, I have it in my email.”

When addressing the two days of constant phone calls, phone messages and emails made by Webster, the CAO responded saying she was away at meetings and was dealing with a water break in the office  “. . . and emails sometimes go to spam,” said Plachner.

However, the letter from Webster went on to explain that the occurrences were happening as far back as 2016, including ignoring registered letters sent requesting public documents, not answering the phone or emails and even hanging up on Webster.

“So will we have a problem with that?” Mayor Helton questioned Plachner.

“I guess not,” answered Plachner.

“Do we need to make a formal resolution?” asked Coun. Edwards.

Mayor Helton responded, “I don’t think so, she said she could provide that.”

Retirement/layoff/severance package policy

Council motioned to have Coun. Graham return with information regarding a retirement/payoff layoff/ severance package policy to the December meeting after adding this item to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

Coun. Graham urged council to develop this policy stating that the information he had collected so far ranges from six weeks for every year served to two weeks for every year served depending on the financial size of the municipality.

“Some places they wait until they retire and then negotiate,” stated Mayor Helton.

CAO Plachner questioned how many week’s notice would council require if retirement were to take place.

Water plant information

Morrin Water Plant information for a generator installation and upgrades was provided to council showing the $72,900 which is half the cost of the $145,800 total for the GenSet generator.

Starland County will be picking up the other half of the tab.

An additional $20,000 is needed to upgrade the gas service and piping from the meter, trenching, electrical in the building and control commissioning, council learned.

“I keep seeing just the GenSet. Having the GenSet we have water supply but we still don’t have a real fire pump,” stated Mayor Helton. “It’s an engine driving it now but we need a motor.”

CAO Plachner confirmed that $50,000 had been set aside for the project.

Helton expressed frustration that this problem has been ongoing for over a year and directed CAO Plachner to “follow up with that [engine] for sure, sooner than later”.

No Request For Decision (RFD) was put forward to council to approve the expenditure for the project.

Municipal Accountability Review Report

Council received an 82-page Municipal Accountability Review Report done by Municipal Affairs in August as part of the government’s Municipal Accountability Program.

Mayor Helton provided a two-page synopsis of the findings that were positive followed by the specific areas that require action to achieve compliance.

Areas requiring action include establishment of CAO position, a CAO evaluation, closed meetings, voting, council meeting minutes, operating and capital budgets, municipal accounts, auditor, audited financial statements, auditor report, salary and benefits, assessment roll, content of tax notices, tax arrears list, tax sale, ballot count and disposition of election material.

Bylaws that required attention included the Code of Conduct, Assessment Review Board, Bylaw Enforcement Officer and Procedural bylaws.

CAO Plachner agreed to work through the areas required by the report and bring some back to council for approval at each meeting until the village is compliant with all the legislative gaps.

The public can request a copy of the 82-page report and the three-page overview that Mayor Helton had tabled at the meeting by contacting the village office.

Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations for the light poles in the village are scheduled to be delivered Friday, reported CAO Plachner.

“We chose without knowing any prices,” said Coun. Edwards who had volunteered to make the choices.

Council had made a motion to proceed at the October meeting despite having no prices available so the decorations could be delivered on time for this year.

“If I’d known the wreath was that expensive I might not have chosen it,” she added.

Council motioned to pay $4,335 for the Christmas decorations.

Cannabis and Employee Code of Conduct bylaws

After previewing samples of cannabis usage and land use bylaws, council moved to have CAO Plachner provide a bylaw for each at the December regular meeting.

“We’ve been kicking it down the road for quite a while,” said Helton. Council approved the 12-page Employee Code of Conduct Policy in a unanimous vote that is “the standard of behaviour and actions for

Village of Morrin employees to ensure the highest public confidence in, and respect for local government, to ensure effective leadership in, and through, the employees, and to ensure that employees act with the highest level of integrity and ethical behaviour.”

Besides integrity and ethical behaviour, the policy also addresses interaction with administration and the public, expenditures, bias, pecuniary interest, conflict of interest, confidentiality, dispute resolution and disciplinary procedures.

 

J. Webster

ECA Review

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