“Where’s the town hall meeting?” asked Mayor Howard Helton referring to his copy of the agenda at the regular council meeting May 16.
“Oh on mine, it’s here,” pointed out Coun. M’Liss Edwards. “Oh, it missed yours.”
“Is there any more surprises here?” asked Mayor Helton.
Moving into the report, Helton noted, “I’ve actually read it [Coun. Bob Graham’s report], I thought about it but didn’t see it on the agenda.”
Council approved a motion brought forward by Coun. Bob Graham in a 2 – 1 recorded vote to hold a town hall meeting in the fall for the purpose of sharing with the village what is currently happening and give residents an open forum to allow discussion on various subjects.
In Coun. Graham’s written proposal, he stated 15 different issues on hand including the electric fire pump, backup generator, Mayor’s office, paving and patching, moving recycle bins, green space, the Chief Administrative Officer’s (CAO) retirement package, surplus money in village finances, tennis court repurposing, drainage, library, Sod House Museum, new business attraction, Sea Cans and sewer and water lines.
“We’re spending a lot of money potentially so we should make them aware of what’s going to be happening – how much can be covered in our usual year to year expenses and how much we will have to dig into savings to cover those investments.
“We have money in the bank so I think sometimes it’s good to spend that money if you’re doing it to make a significant improvement but it would be nice to have people sort of say that the council listened and we’re on the same page as the community,” said Graham.
Mayor Helton stated he was in favour of a town hall meeting for bringing residents “up to speed” on what council was doing, noting, however, that this is the purpose of the website which is still in its infancy.
He went on to say, however, the website does not give the public a platform for much input as he would like.
Mayor Helton rebutted several of Coun. Graham’s points and noted that the council had removed several restrictions for discouraging public input put in place by the previous council to prevent the public from speaking out.
Helton concluded his comments stating, “I would like to see the residents approach council and use this venue first because we’ve put an opportunity in place to approach us or submit as an individual or organization, to sit in the gallery to approach council and bring their ideas.”
Council made several motions to poll the residents of Morrin in their utility bills on various subjects.
Polling questions are to include how residents would like to see notifications reach them; the possibility of allowing Sea Cans in residential areas and a retirement package for the current CAO.
Coun. Bob Graham presented three options for a retirement package for CAO Annette Plachner.
The three options were: $86,353.05; $71,960.88; and $57,568.70 based on one week’s wages ($822.41) multiplied by the number of weeks (3, 2.5 or 2 weeks) times 35 years of service.
“I know the village is financially sound,” said Coun. M’Liss Edwards, “but should we be spending this money on this?”
Helton questioned why Coun. Graham was working with Ms. Plachner with no authorization from council.
He pointed out that the report previously motioned by council was dealt with at the Jan. 16, 2019 regular meeting and it was then left to Ms. Plachner should she decide to retire.
Mayor Helton, in an effort to determine if this was a severance or a retirement package, stated, “In my view the tone of the information gathered by Coun. Graham is that of severance and not retirement. CAO Plachner has stated she will not submit a letter of resignation until council presents her with a package, thus severance, as council would be initiating the termination.”
Mayor Helton went on to question the validity of the information collected by Graham. Regarding the Starland County six week exit package of a long time CAO, Mayor Helton confirmed with the current Starland County CAO the information was incorrect.
Helton further stated that the existing RRSP schedule states this compensation is “in lieu of a pension benefit”.
Dating back as early as the fall of 2018, many requests have been made for access to the minutes where the RRSP Schedule was approved.
A motion by council, several requests by a resident, and a FOIP request by the media have all been denied by CAO Plachner with the reasons for denials ranging from lawyers, Brownlee LLP said the breakdown of wages is not for the public; it’s ‘past the 15 year limit’; having no time to do it; and would not be “going to dig it out of the dusty basement”.
Councillors agreed to poll the seven residents sitting in the gallery.
Daryl DeMille, when the floor was opened, stated, “Just because the town has money don’t mean you have to give it away either.”
“Up until the beginning of May this year, Annette has received $92,000 in RRSP money,” stated John Siemens, “yet we still have not seen any proof, any documentation that what she got was done legally. This is since October when the question was being asked. So once we see the minutes then I’m all for a package.”
“Why can’t you just go by the Labour Standards Act?” asked Doug Siemens when asked for input by Coun. Edwards. “Just because I’d worked for many years . . . didn’t mean I was entitled to a pile of money.”
“Let the taxpayers decide,” said Wanda Hampton.
Coun. Graham’s motion to poll the public regarding the buy-out options was passed 2 – 1 in a recorded vote with Mayor Helton opposed.
In a follow-up interview with the ECA Review, Mayor Helton sited he has called a Special Meeting for Thurs. May 23 to rescind the motion to go public with the retirement option poll as this is a personnel issue and discussion should be dealt with by council in a closed session.
Closed session Mayor Helton asked if anyone wished to declare a conflict of interest prior to going into closed session on an item listed as Library Board Chair.
No declaration was made prior to the seven-minute closed session.
Following the closed session the decision to draft a letter to the Library Board Chair was made and passed 2 – 1 in a recorded vote with Coun. Graham voting against the motion.