No one seems to be looking out for the public interest
Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
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No one seems to be looking out for the public interest

The firing this week of a Guelph transit manager after less than three weeks on the job is a clear example of why bureaucrats need more oversight. And why each addition to the public payroll should be vetted completely, with jobs added only reluctantly.

In this case, the man was fired after the results of a sexual harassment arbitration came to light, revealed to his new employer by the media. The manager had been fired from his previous position with the City of Hamilton. The grievance arbitration awarded $25,000 to a female employee who complained Bill Richardson, then her supervisor, had sent her pornographic and lewd emails, made sexual comments and gestures, and touched her against her wishes over a period of several years.

Upon his firing, Richardson received a severance package of some $200,000, the Guelph Mercury reported.

His new employer, the City of Guelph, says it received two glowing references from two of the man’s former bosses in Hamilton.

In a similar vein this week, another media report brought to light the case of two University of Regina IT workers who were overpaid $380,000 in the past 11 years. Authorized for one year of special overtime pay 12 years ago, they were never cut off – and never said anything – until more than a decade later, and only due to a tip-off. The university never informed the province or its auditor, and made no attempt to recover the money.

These stories should set off warning bells to anyone in the public concerned about how municipal government is run.

In these instances, the notion that bureaucracies are self-serving rather than protecting the public interest seems very much justified. Nor are these isolated issues. In Woolwich, we saw a lack of diligence in the hiring last year of a communications assistant – again brought to light by the media – and in other recent cases.

Each example reinforces the notion that bureaucrats protect their own, not the citizens.

As we’ve pointed out on more than one occasion, the underlying problem starts with the ever-expanding payroll, both in terms of numbers and remuneration, which usually comes without either merit or accountability to the taxpayers.

As last year’s hiring mess indicates, in Woolwich there are few challenges to staff’s assertions that yet another body is needed to bloat the payroll, despite the addition of jobs providing no benefit to taxpayers footing the bill for the generous salaries.

Looking at the numbers, councillors should constantly be pushing for a review of all pay levels, recognizing that the payroll makes up half of all expenditures and increases have outstripped inflation, padding an already overly-generous pay scale.

Such a review has been conspicuously absent in budget deliberations

As we’ve also noted, bureaucracies have a tendency to expand – bureaucrats beget more of themselves – but it’s council’s job to push back against the inclination. We’re not seeing that in Woolwich, where growth in administrative staff has easily eclipsed the outside workers who actually deliver services to residents. Of course, there’s a need for office staff, but busywork should be kept to a minimum. Again, that’s where councillors are supposed to come into the equation.

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