North Saanich’s chief administrative officer has been given more than $26,000 in what the mayor of that community is calling “compensation for his treatment at the hands of the previous municipal council.”
Rob Buchan was the CAO of the District in 2011 when the council in question was elected. The subsequent three year term saw considerable turmoil at the North Saanich municipal hall, including mediation between councillors and the District’s staff in November, 2012.
Mayor Alice Finall, who was mayor during the period in question, said this week the current council agreed to pay Buchan to compensate him for that treatment by the last council.
“Compensation was offered to (Buchan) for his treatment at the hands of previous council,” Finall read from a statement on July 18.
The initial amount paid to Buchan in the District’s 2015 statement of financial information, was reported as $34,600. Both Finall and Buchan himself confirmed Monday night that the compensation was revised to $26,800.
While the District’s initial report Monday night indicated the payment arose from “a legal matter,” Finall and the CAO emphasized to the News Review that there was, in fact, no legal action taken.
Finall said council on its own decided to compensate Buchan.
Buchan deferred any further comment to the mayor’s statement.
Leading up to the mediation issue in 2012, Buchan had faced public criticism, notably from councillors Dunstan Browne and Ted Daly.
“We are working under very difficult conditions,” Browne said at a Nov. 7, 2012 council meeting, regarding the decision to seek mediation.
Difficulties between council and the CAO were evident at the time. In example, at that time, councillors voted to remove an item from that meeting’s agenda that would have seen the CAO offer evidence contrary to comments made at an Oct. 1, 2012 public meeting by Browne on another matter.
Coun. Celia Stock — who sat at the council table then and now — said in 2012 that council had been unprofessional at times in its dealings with staff.
Daly said at the time that he expected criticism for going to mediation, adding he was at the point where this step might be the only way to improve conditions at municipal hall — a tempest that has been boiling since council’s inaugural meeting.
Pressure on District staff continued in 2013 when four employees resigned in one month.
“There doesn’t seem to be any change happening in North Saanich,” Daly said in 2012, describing a level of political rancour that has existed for years, even during his two terms as mayor. “I’ve always prided myself on finding a middle ground, but it’s almost impossible to do that on North Saanich council.”
Daly said at that time council’s inability to communicate well with staff was part of the mediation. He did not seek re-election in November, 2014. Browne stood for re-election in 2014 but he and other incumbents — members of Team North Saanich who’d held the majority on council from 2011 to 2014 — were defeated.