Coun. Jeromy Farkas says he’s disappointed councillors chose not to listen to him on Monday when he suggested they would be in line for a salary increase next year based on the city’s own policy and numbers.
On Monday, Farkas was ejected from a council meeting for a Facebook post that said council had voted against a pay freeze, when they were in line for a 2.3 per cent pay increase.
Council salaries are tied to a 12-month average of Statistics Canada’s weekly earnings report for Alberta.
The city’s acting chief Acting Chief Financial Officer Carla Male told council that day it looked as if they would have a pay cut in 2019, which led a majority of council to vote against the freeze.
The mayor and other councillors chided Farkas for not providing his Facebook followers with the most up-to-date information, although he claims he had the more accurate numbers that entire time.
On Thursday morning, Farkas put out a tweet suggesting his 2.3 per cent number had been correct all along.
What he failed to mention was that the pay raise is still far from certain, and that the 2.3 per cent number is still in dispute.
In an email that went to all city councillors at 6 a.m. Thursday, Male explained that there was a discrepancy in the formulas used to obtain salary changes, and she apologized for the discrepancy.
She wrote that council policy calls for council pay to change “by the same percentage increase or decrease as the Average Weekly Earnings of Alberta” based on September to September numbers.
However, in 2012, Council passed a motion that proposed changing the formula to a 12-month average of Average Weekly Earnings. That means they were calculating the average of each month, instead of the entire year.
“The accompanying report noted that this will sometimes result in a higher amount than the September to September number and will sometimes result in a lower amount,” wrote Male in her email to councillors.
“In their communications with members of Council, our colleagues in Human Resources have been complying with this 2012 Council direction rather than the Council Policy.”
Male also said that the city auditor will review the policy, and report back to council early in the New Year. She said any changes in pay can be retroactively applied back to Jan. 1 2019, once they’ve received clarity on the policy.
Farkas put out his numbers based on the latest data from Statistics Canada on Thursday. He said he simply used spreadsheets provided to him by city administration for the previous year, but plugged in this year’s data.
“I am feeling vindicated. It’s important for every member of council to respect every other member. I had put in a substantial amount of time and research into council policies all the way back to 2012.
“I am disappointed council chose not to listen to me.”
Coun. Ward Sutherland initially brought forward the motion to freeze pay and later asked council to vote against it, once he learned from Male that pay was likely to drop,
He said he’d received Male’s email at 6:04 a.m.
“This city has given no numbers, so there are no numbers,” said Sutherland.
“It’s saying there’s two different documents that show different calculations and that’s a problem,” he explained.
He added that the drama surrounding these numbers is probably not warranted, because he and 11 other councillors are ready to make retroactive changes to pay to ensure that they do not receive a raise.
“No matter what the number is, it’s not going to increase,” he said.
“We’re not taking a raise no matter what,”
Farkas not only caught flack from councillors for touting the 2.3 percent increase number. There were also concerns that he had suggested everyone had voted against his motion on a 5 per cent pay cut when in fact no vote had taken place because no one had seconded the motion.
Farkas’ social media posts showed a vote tally sheet with every councillor voting against his motion.
However when questioned about the potential misinformation in the post, he stood his ground.
“Council abuses a loophole wherein they say that without a seconder, nothing happened,” he said.
“But I committed to my constituents that I would remain accountable firstly on key issues and secondly on the type of proposals I brought forward.”
Farkas said he was clear in his post that his motion failed due to a lack of a seconder.
“I think it’s important for other members of council to remain accountable for their decision. Not one member of council chose to support the seconding, so by default they chose not to support the motion.”
The rest of council has asked the city’s integrity commissioner to weigh in on the matter.