The Strathcona Regional District’s electoral area directors were warned about “double dipping” their pay for public hearings as they debated an amendment to their compensation bylaw on Wednesday.
An item to consider public hearings that cover both Official Community Plan and rezoning amendments as separate hearings was introduced at the September Electoral Area Services Committee meeting by Area A director Gerald Whalley. It was briefly discussed at that table before being voted on, bringing it forward to the board for adoption.
Public hearings that look at OCP amendments and rezoning amendments at the same time are currently considered one meeting. That means that the directors running those meetings would be paid for one installment of their meeting compensation: $160 per meeting or $256 per meeting if the director is also the chair. By considering these meetings as two separate meetings, it would allow the directors to claim that remuneration twice per meeting.
At the EASC table, Area B director Noba Anderson spoke out against the amendment, saying that it “seems like a pay grab.”
“We’ve found so many ways of increasing our pay over the last couple of years, I truly thought we were done with it,” she added.
The other electoral area directors, however, spoke in favour of the amendment at the meeting in September. EASC chair and electoral area C director Jim Abram said that to him, since there are two bylaws up for consultation at these kinds of meetings, they should be considered two separate meetings, despite corporate services manager Tom Yates saying that it would be “difficult, and in some cases impossible” to legally consider them different meetings.
Electoral area D director Brenda Leigh also supported the motion, saying that work occurring before and after the meetings should be compensated through the remuneration. That motion was passed in September, which bumped it up to the board table for the October meeting.
This month, non-electoral area directors also had issue with the content of the amendment. Although they were unable to vote on it, multiple directors spoke against it in the discussion.
“While I don’t have a vote or a vested interest in this particular motion, as a member of the board I feel I do need to make comment,” said Campbell River director Andy Adams. “Please don’t take offense, but this is nothing more than double dipping. I strongly advise that this not be pursued.”
“If it’s at the same location and the same day, to me, we should not be billing for remuneration for two separate meetings. I would really question the rationale for that,” agreed Campbell River director Charlie Cornfield. “The amount of time that’s spent before the public hearing is what your regular stipend is used to cover. That’s why a stipend is received.”
After a vote of only electoral area directors, the item was passed. Director Anderson voted against it. Staff will be returning with a proposed amendment to the bylaw in a future meeting.