In a recent letter sent to the Rossland News, ex-councillor and mayoral candidate Jill Spearn slammed city council — in particular Mayor Kathy Moore — over the recent events with city employees Tracey Butler and Darrin Albo.
Butler was previously the city’s deputy chief administrative officer and Albo was, and still is, employed as manager of operations.
Spearn wrote she is concerned with the way the situation was handled and outraged that two members of city staff have been dismissed. However, only Butler has left city employment. Albo is currently on stress leave as he felt his work load was too much and he was doing other jobs he believed should not be in his job description.
Council is currently ironing out the details and Moore wrote in her own letter and response, “Council immediately started negotiating a new contract with Mr. Albo when he made it clear he did not want to work under the terms of his existing contract but also did not want to leave. Based on his input, we have designed a job that plays to his strengths and takes a lot of the stress out of his position. He is a valued member of the team and will be with the city for many years to come. The agreement is fair for everyone.”
In Butler’s case, things unfortunately did not go so well and it seems some misunderstandings were present, she said.
Spearn wrote in her letter what she believed to be the process that led to Butler leaving.
“Both she and Mr. Albo were asked to meet with the mayor … March 9, to discuss ‘something’. Mayor Moore then proceeded to give the same letter to both managers which clearly uses the word ‘termination’.”
Spearn continued to write that Butler was entitled to work for two more years under her current contract with no additional cost to the taxpayer and that now residents are left to pay out nearly $200,000 in the wake of her contract termination and subsequent payout.
“The council could have let her contract expire,” Spearn wrote, “and saved that large amount of money. Ms. Butler seized an opportunity to negotiate a pay out and now we’ll all pay, when it was unnecessary. Is this good stewardship of our taxpayers money?”
While it is true that a large payout has been confirmed, Moore said no letters were given to the employees and it was more of a friendly heads-up that was taken the wrong way.
In Moore’s rebuttal, she explained, “I showed both employees a draft letter but clearly told them that council had not yet approved it; it wasn’t signed, it wasn’t on letterhead and it had a future date on it. It was, however, council’s intent to change the contracts.”
The contracts were in dire need of change, council agreed, as part of their attempt to clean up and reorganize the messy situation at city hall.
Moore continued, “Ms. Butler quit rather than work under the terms of her contract. That was her prerogative. Technically, the city was not obligated to pay her anything. In honor of her years of dedicated service, council gave her a generous payout.
“No one was fired. Both employees had the option to continue to work under the generous terms of their existing contracts for two years; then council would be free to renegotiate better contracts for the benefit of the community.”
Spearn then asked why another councillor wasn’t present at the meeting in additino to Moore.
At Monday night’s council meeting, Moore stated the intention was to have another council member present but he wasn’t available at the time.
“Ms. Spearn states that I acted without council’s approval or foreknowledge. Council had innumerable meetings to discuss this labour issue and other challenges arising from contracts entered into by the previous council. I acted with council’s full knowledge and endorsement. As a courtesy, and in the spirit of “no surprises,” I asked to meet with both employees to discuss an item on the upcoming agenda.”
Also at open council, councillor Aaron Cosbey admitted, “We were stupid for not seeing [Butler’s reaction].” He was referring to her decision to leave upon hearing of the contract renegotiation. Council believes Butler took it as a sort of termination and was not comfortable. This was not their intention, he said.
“This council is dealing with a number of residual issues and complicated contracts approved by the last council,” Moore added. “That is the case whenever a new group takes over. It was clear from the election results that the community supported a new approach. While we appreciate that change is hard, council is taking action.”
Moore said she’s not upset by Spearn’s letter, but asks her or anyone else with questions aboutcouncil’s operations to contact and discuss it with them directly.