Council approves flat-rate remuneration for council; policy changes still ongoing

Wellington North council was split, but passed a motion to move to flat-fee council remuneration instead of the current system.

Council voted 3-2 to change their remuneration to a flat-fee of $17,000 per year ($27,000 for the mayor), which is a three-year average of their base salary and per diem compensation.

Councillors Dan Yake and Sherry Burke both voted against the change, stating they do not agree with an increase.

“I’m disappointed in the way that the direction of the council restructure is going … I believe that the system that we had was a good system,” said Burke.

“It made you a lot more accountable to your constituents if they ever asked to see your expenses.”

The original report from clerk Karren Wallace in September states the flat rate of remuneration does not include conference registrations, mileage, supplies and meals, but does encompass any meeting councillors attend.

Due to the upcoming change in council structure, Yake said there would be an increase for fewer duties.

“We’re removing the committees, so I think part of the role as councillor is to be involved in the committee structure and have those discussions,” he said.

Councillor Steve McCabe on the other hand said more discussion could happen at the council table and councillor Lisa Hern said even if there was less discussion, the process would be more open.

“I would rather be part of a process that’s more transparent, where everybody can come out and everybody can hear it,” Hern said.

Yake said the timing of the changes – two years into this council’s term – is “crucial.” He added he would be voting against the motion.

“If and when it passes, I’m going to decline the increase,” he said.

The motion passed 3-2, with Burke and Yake opposed.

Council restructuring

Council did not vote on the restructuring and instead favoured another round of revision to the policy.

Hern suggested 10 minutes for deputations, renamed from delegations, rather than the listed five minutes.

Burke asked that council not meet at 9am on Mondays for the day meeting.

“I would suggest that if I had first choice, that we wouldn’t change it to a day time meeting at all,” she said.

“Traditionally it’s always been Monday nights at 7pm; it has worked quite well in the past. We have never not had a quorum for those meetings and would suggest if it has to be a daytime meetings, that we look at proposing to have it later in the day.”

Yake agreed.

“Nine o’clock, it’s a bad time for me too; it’s just a bad time,” he said.

“I would be more open to the idea of moving it later on in the day, after lunch time.”

CAO Mike Givens suggested holding closed meetings prior to council meetings.

The amendments to the council structure are:

– eliminate public works and administration and finance committees;

– restructure the economic development committee to become the community growth plan steering committee;

– all business go directly to a meeting of council;

– report recommendations will be approved by council in a consent agenda;

– the recreation and culture committee will meet every two months immediately prior to the regular daytime council meeting; and

– two council meetings will be held every month, one in the daytime (2pm) and one in the evening (7pm).

Council received the report with the intent to make revisions. The report  is expected to come back to a future meeting.