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Council moves forward with remuneration policy

Masha Scheele

During the standing committee meeting on July 7, Hinton council discussed multiple changes to the remuneration policy including clarification of qualifying meetings and approval procedures, as well as increased reporting measures required by councillors.

The policy ensures that the Mayor and councillors receive fair remuneration for their time and expenses consistent with comparable communities.

The amended Policy will return to the next standing committee meeting of council for further discussion and review.

Earlier this year on Feb. 18, council directed administration to amend the policy with additions, revisions, and clarifications.

Those revisions included that administration complete all council time sheets, a clarification of the definition of meetings, that consecutive meetings be deemed a single meeting in relation to meeting fees, that basic reporting be required for Council Approved Committee and Board meetings and to include these in the Council Agenda package on a monthly basis, and that items that constitute conference participation be tracked separately from regular remuneration.

Additionally at the July 7 meeting, Coun. Dewly Nelson asked for clarification of workshops in the policy.

“It also says that workshops are not included, so a workshop wouldn’t be included unless it’s mandatory by the mayor. But can the mayor make a workshop mandatory?” Nelson asked.

Mayor Marcel Michaels stated that as long as it is a workshop driven by administration for all of council then it is included in the remuneration policy, any workshop that is a personal choice can not be claimed.

This means a workshop deemed appropriate for council but not meant for all of council can be part of a separate budget, like conference participation, for elective events council chooses to attend, Nelson clarified. 

Heather Waye, temporary strategic services manager, noted that this would be changed to workshops driven by administration or directed by council.

Coun. Trevor Haas pointed out that the CAO currently reviews time sheets with the mayor, which may put the CAO and administration in an awkward position.

“Personally, I would like to see either the Mayor themselves basically look at the time sheets and sign off on them on councillors,” Haas said.

Waye noted that this would be a simple change and that comparables with other communities didn’t provide much information on this issue.

The way the current policy is rewritten, it encourages communication with the mayor to resolve any discrepancies, said CAO Emily Olsen.

She added she was comfortable with the CAO signing off as it is currently laid out.

Michaels questioned if mayors in other municipalities sign off on time sheets and if an elected official should be signing off. 

The current process has executive assistant, Wendy Anderson, go through the time sheets to make sure all information makes sense before it goes to the CAO to sign off, said Carla Fox, director of corporate services. 

“I think where the issue comes in is holding accountability of council, it is hard for administration if they see error or if they see an issue to try and hold council accountable for that,” Fox said.

Due to this, Fox supported the mayor being the final check.

Administration prepared two versions of the revised Remuneration Policy, and council moved ahead with version 2.

According to the report, version 2 is based on exception reporting and will require some additional staff time.

Exception reporting is the practice of submitting a remuneration adjustment request based on differing activities from those that would be considered the norm. 

This means, each councillor and the mayor will automatically be provided their monthly honorarium in addition to meeting fees, but be required to submit a monthly exception report in order to obtain appropriate remuneration above and beyond the standard.

Administration would log council’s time for all regular meetings of council, standing council meetings, and special meetings of council as per the attendance record at those meetings. 

This version is anticipated to initially add an estimated four hours of staffing time per month, but this may later be reduced.

Nelson suggested a direction for remuneration be contingent on the monthly reports of meetings to be submitted by a certain date, including a summary of discussions and decisions.

This direction was later defeated when it came to a vote.

“If we submit a time sheet and it has the West Yellowhead Regional Waste Management Authority, and we don’t submit a summary of it we do not get remuneration,” Nelson said.

Haas added that would give councilors an opportunity to ask questions about other committees. 

Coun. Albert Ostashek noted that he could not support this because the reporting requirement would force councilors to report on discussions that aren’t relevant to the business with the Town.

“There are discussions that happen a lot of the time that are simply discussions that until at some point when a decision is made to move into a particular direction, until then having those discussions published is probably not in the best interest of the community,” Ostashek said.

He added that it was offensive as an elected official to have to justify in writing that they are spending their time effectively in committees they are appointed to.