Pay report irks Petrolia’s mayor

Petrolia CAO Manny Baron, seen here during a 2015 budget session, has resigned.

Petrolia Mayor John McCharles says a report suggesting salary increase for some upper management at the County of Lambton is flawed.

County councillors were in an uproar at a recent meeting when Consultant Tom Gazda tabled a report he’d been commissioned to do for the county. It was completed in 2014.

Gazda says Lambton County managers are paid slightly below average over all. Some were underpaid. And he says “the county appears to be getting more done with the same or less number of staff” as the municipalities he used to compare Lambton.

The details of the report, which affects general managers and some middle managers, including the potential cost to the taxpayers, were not made public.

McCharles says the politicians weren’t upset with any suggestions of substantial raises; they were concerned with the timing of the information and whether the report was valid.

“Councillors didn’t have an opportunity to look at it (the full report) before county council,” says McCharles. “It was slapped on our desk and ‘here you are’ and there was not time to look at it.”

McCharles says there was no way anyone could have made any decisions or even asked questions without first reading the report. “It had a lot of information in it and you have to have time to digest that….Once you set rates for employees, it is not going to go down.”

But the mayors biggest concern was the municipalities the consultant used to compare Lambton county’s performance. They included Sarnia – a municipality that is part of the county – and Chatham-Kent, which is an amalgamated municipal government without lower tier communities.

McCharles says it was “flawed” adding the consultant might as well be comparing Petrolia to Toronto.

Warwick Mayor Todd Case also wondered if the consultant had considered who was paying the bill “Did you consider the municipality’s ability to pay?” he asked adding that was the “missing ingredient in the comparison.”

But Gazda says he did look at ability to pay saying the municipalities involved had an median income of $61,097 while Lambton’s is higher at $64,442.

He also cautioned that whether they liked the report or not, Lambton politicians will have to deal with the issue and soon.

“Turnover is something Lambton will be dealing with fairly extensively soon,” he says. “Two thirds of the management team is eligible for retirement if not now, in the next couple of years.”

Gazda met briefly with councillors privately to discuss salaries involving identifiable people, but councillors have not made a decision on how much, if any of the proposed raises should be implemented.