Coun. Bob Graham provided council with a report on a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) severance payout at the regular meeting of Morrin Village council on Wed. Dec. 19.
“Are we terminating our CAO?” asked Mayor Helton, questioning the need for a severance payout.
He went on to say, “Usually a severance has a connotation of a payout being required as management has terminated an employee.
“Retirement has the connotation that the employee has initiated termination of their employment and in the absence of a predetermined retirement agreement, the employer is not obligated to a payout.
“However, this does not preclude a retirement payout based on various criteria as determined by the employer,” concluded Mayor Helton.
“In order to be fair to Annette and fair to the village,” said Coun. Graham, “we should decide what the village can afford. Over the years there has been a reserve fund available for such events for exit payment for the CAO.
“I know that in talking with Annette she would like a month’s wages for every year served because she has served so long as the CAO and the village is doing quite well with sewer and pavement upgrades without large loans.
“I would recommend one month of pay for every year served,” concluded Graham in his report to council. Mayor Helton asked to table the report so “M’Liss and I have a chance to read it. Not sure why we didn’t receive all of this prior to tonight’s meeting.”
“Has the CAO given us a notice of retirement?” Helton asked further.
“No,” stated Graham.
“So what is the big rush? Is this a rush to put a policy in place going forward or is this to deal specifically with an event which may be in the future?” questioned Helton.
“That’s correct,” answered Graham. “We can contemplate all of this,” said Helton. “Should our CAO retire, the next CAO we may start on a contract basis so therefore there is no use making a policy for retirement.
“I’m not poo-pooing a retirement package, just putting out some points I’ve made,” said Helton.
Coun. Edwards asked CAO Plachner if she was considering retirement. “Do you want to give us a date or letter on when you would like to retire?”
CAO Plachner responded, “When you tell me what my retirement package is going to be, yes.”
“Well, I think the one should come before the other,” stated Helton.
“I think they should come at the same time,” said Plachner.
“Yeah, probably,” said Edwards. “It would be helpful to know that we’re talking retirement.”
“Yes we are,” said Plachner.
“Until we see an official letter then it’s not retirement,” said Helton.
Plachner responded, “Show me an official retirement package on paper then I’ll show my retirement letter.”
“Again, we are not absolutely obligated to provide a retirement package,” said Helton. “I guess if she would like a retirement package,” stated Graham “and we’re not obligated then she doesn’t have to give you a retirement letter.”
“Of course not, she doesn’t have to retire,” stated Helton.
“No, I prefer her to stay on myself,” said Graham, “because we’ve got lots of work to do.”
“Me too,” stated Helton. “That’s her decision, not mine. I’m not saying retire, she’s the one that has to decide that.
“That’s good news,” stated Graham.
“I didn’t know it was news,” responded Mayor Helton.
“Well, you guys think about it and we’ll discuss it again,” concluded Coun. Graham.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner presented council with a Workplace Harassment Prevention Policy and a Violence Prevention Policy for approval.
New health and safety legislation came into effect in Alberta on June 1, 2018, with the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act requiring employers to establish a joint worksite health and safety committee and a health and safety program.
When asked when the Village was made aware of this legislation, CAO Plachner stated not until OH&S came into the office on Nov. 5, 2018, with a compliance deadline of Dec. 5, 2018.
“I can’t see approving this tonight at all,” stated Mayor Howard Helton. “But it’s an order from OH&S,” said CAO Plachner. “They want it approved.”
Helton responded “They say compliance but there has to be a lot more thought put into that [harassment policy].
“I’ve looked over some of them [from other jurisdictions] and there’s a lot of questions I would have to propose to cover off. It would be pretty presumptuous of them [OH&S] to show up Nov. 5 and dictate, supposedly, a compliance date of one month for something as complex as a Harassment and Violence policy,” said Helton.
“There’s other jurisdictions still working on this as well. “The way that’s [Harassment policy] written and not written – there could be conflict,” said Helton.
Items missing in the policy were on ‘supporting procedures’ including reporting an incident, how incidents will be investigated or dealt with and training.
Coun. M’Liss Edwards pushed to have the policy passed and to do the revisions in the January meeting, however, Mayor Helton expressed concern that should an incident arise, there is no procedure in place to adjudicate it.
“These are dealing with very serious matters. There’s nothing regarding false accusations, misunderstanding, controversy to name only a few.
There’s a clear and definite way that they should be addressed. There should be clear definitions of harassment,” said Helton.
“Where in that policy is there anything, like anything to really define what is and what isn’t harassment? “Should a situation arise that there is not enough clarity to deal with the situation, now it’s policy, now you are down the slippery slope,” added Helton.
When questioned on the chances of an incident arising, Helton responded that “Perhaps we’ve run into it already.”
Following further discussion, Helton raised an issue in May 2018 that occurred in the office stating “I have an example, here, between Annette and myself.”
“So I’ll propose this [example] right now directing the question to the CAO that May encounter, do you consider that, on my part, harassment?” said Helton.
“What May encounter, what? I don’t understand,” said CAO Plachner.
“When we had our discussion out in the office there and M’Liss witnessed it.
“That’s not harassment?” asked Helton.
“No,” answered CAO Plachner.
“Would that have been considered workplace harassment?” Helton asked again.
“I don’t think so,” said the CAO.
“What I’m saying, is because I was reported to the Minister over that incident so obviously you thought there was something wrong that would probably fall within this [Harassment policy].
“I won’t go further but I could turn it around and say my feeling after that was that I was harassed. There’s my point. I have an actual scenario that I could present. Just using that scenario that’s already taken place. So that happens, it’s a he said, she said. So now, with that policy what recourse would either party have to deal with this?
“I don’t see anything in this policy that would either deter that kind of action or would adjudicate it. Either party who felt harassed, how could you deal with it? If you put that in place and that sort of thing happens, this is not just something that is the flavour of the month. This has serious implications,” said Helton.
“That’s where I stand and I’m not going to jump to approve this policy with what I just said in mind. I’m sure they [OH&S] want us to be comfortable before approving a policy as it could have far-reaching consequences,” concluded Mayor Helton.
“I think it’s far-fetched that they’re [OH&S] going to come and do that [fine for not having a policy done that had a compliance date of Dec. 5, 2018],” said Coun. Edwards.
Council unanimously passed a motion that the policies include all the necessary procedures and the CAO is to bring it back to the January meeting.