The price of democracy

Trent Ernst, Editor


The annual Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) has come out for 2014.

The SOFI is released every year, and contains similar information to what one would find in the District’s Annual report. Indeed, the Consolidated Financial Statement forms the heart of both the SOFI and the annual report.

However, something contained in the SOFI that is not found in the Annual Report is the “Schedule of Remuneration and Experiences Paid to or on Behalf of Each Employee.” This information outlines the stipends paid to each District Councillor, as well as their expenses. It also outlines the same for the nine district employees who made more than $75,000 in 2014.

So, how much does it cost to keep a council? Well, in 2014, the total of all stipends and all expenses for the Tumbler Ridge Council was $123,577. Of that, $88,043 was paid in stipends, while the remaining $35,534 was in expenses, typically travel costs to and from conferences and meetings.

The highest paid member of Council for 2014 was former Mayor Darwin Wren. He was both the highest paid of all council members in 2014, collecting $22,493 in stipends, as well as about $30,000 in travel and other expenses.

About? Yes, says Finance Manager Chris Leggett. “There are some immaterial restatements of expenses needed on the SOFI due to miscoding in the accounting software,” says Leggett. “Basically, it’s coded in the wrong area of financial statement. The amounts didn’t mysteriously disappear or anything, they’re just put in a different place.”

Leggett says this is a function of a reporting system that has slowly been cobbled together over the last thirty years or so. “Over the last 30 years, people have incorrectly coded GLs to sections that they shouldn’t be in. There’s a list of inclusions for each line item, as well as a list of exclusions as well.”

Leggett says this system is going to be cleaned up over the next few months. “The new chart of accounts is going to take all that information, and we’re going to properly bring things to where they should be. It’ll take about six weeks, not just to develop coding and bring it into line with other municipalities, as there’s a set of standards that have come out in the last few years.”

In December, Don McPherson took over as mayor. He collected $10,606 in stipends for his time as a councillor, as well as $13,185 in travel and other expenses. McPherson spend most of the year as a councillor, but took over the position of mayor from Darwin Wren on December 2 of 2014.

Councillor Rob Mackay made a number of trips to Vancouver and Victoria to lobby various ministers, organizations and companies. He had the second-highest total expenses, at $7,428. He also made $1,200 more than McPherson and Councillor Mike Caisley, who both made $10,606. This extra amount comes from having to fill in for Mayor Wren from time to time as the former mayor dealt with personal issues. In addition to his stipend, Councillor Caisley collected $2,486 for travel and other expenses.

The only other Councillor to make over $10,000 was former Councillor Tim Snyder, who also made $10,606.

The top paid employee was Chief Administrative Officer Barry Elliott, who made $120,722, plus $2,261 in expenses for a total of $124,033.

The second highest paid employee was former Chief Financial Officer Candie Laporte, who made $101,465, plus $320 in expenses for a total of $101,785.

Heavy Equipment Operator Sean O’Rielly was paid $98,661, with $1,725 in expenses, making him one of only three employees to make over $100,000 in 2014. He’s followed by Operations Manager Doug Beale, who made $95,092, plus $3,168 for a total of $98,260.

Only five other employees made more than $75,000: Public Works Foreman Sean Shea made $95,716, $240 of which was expenses; Fire Chief Matt Treit made $85,338, of which $383 was expenses; Heavy Equipment Operator Brian Link made $79,360, $513 in expenses; Deputy Chief Financial Officer Verna Piercy made $78,060, $2,599 in expenses and finally; Building Inspector Ken Klikach made $75,055, no expenses.

In total, the District paid out over $3.3 million in wages. Meanwhile, Dawson Creek paid $10.5 million to city staff. In Chetwynd, wages and expenses cost them $3.7 million.