A $20K slap in the face

Image credit: Globe and Mail

Image credit: Globe and Mail, August 23, 2012

Just picking up on the buzz here and here about Guelph’s top public official,  CAO Ann Pappert deciding to move to Guelph. I can only say how incensed I am to learn that CAO Pappert has a $20K incentive in her contract to move here.

The image, left, is from a Globe and Mail discussion about the merits of a $20K guaranteed annual income for poverty-stricken Canadians.

It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Staff, even top staff, can live where they want. Of course, they also have to own their choice in terms of how the community responds to it. It’s their call, and it’s their good judgement on the line — it’s not Council’s responsibility to ensure they exercise it in this regard. If good judgement dictates to them that it’s best to live in the community they’re hired to serve, fantastic — but are we seriously paying top staff — effectively enabling them  — to exercise their own good judgement in a way they would have not otherwise?

I guess that’s how it is for some. There’s an expectation to get paid. A lot. To move. It may be business as usual in some circles. For most of us, it’s just disrespectful.

Scott Tracey of the Guelph Mercury reported:

By moving to Guelph within 18 months of signing her contract, Pappert qualifies to claim up to $20,000 in moving expenses, though she has not yet done so.

She said that clause – which is common for corporations recruiting senior administrators – “was part of the negotiation” when she took the job.

Mayor Karen Farbridge wrote in an email recently having the CAO live in Guelph “is important to council.

“As an employer, this is not something we can require, but it is something we can incent,” Farbridge wrote. “That is what we did and we are very pleased to welcome Ann to Guelph.”

Pappert acknowledged there are pitfalls to living in the community where one holds such a high-profile position. Shopping trips take a lot longer, for example, “because people are always stopping me to talk about something.”

So, to recap: “We” are “very pleased” that the CAO chose to move to the city she runs?

“Very pleased” — really?? And at a possible cost of $20K? That is a slap in the face to Guelph taxpayers.

Talk about being out of touch with the realities of the people you’re (supposed to be) serving.

Well, if you happen to see Ms. Pappert when you’re out doing your errands, be sure to welcome her to the community, because that’s who we are (though she may prefer you giving her some space)… only, it’s pompous-ridiculous that we agreed to pay her $20K to discover that.

About Craig Chamberlain

Ward 3 Guelph resident, husband, dad and step-dad, candidate for municipal office for Ward 3 in 2006 and 2010.
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5 Responses to A $20K slap in the face

  1. geo says:

    Often wrong but never in doubt. Describes these navel gazing, self serving individuals perfectly.

  2. Steve says:

    For me these spending issues come down to one simple question: Is there a public benefit to this public expense?
    In this case, council seems to think there is a public benefit to having the CAO live in Guelph, and I would assume the moving incentive clause is in the contract because senior executives are often recruited from much farther away in which case moving is more of a necessity than a mere convenience.
    This seems to be one of those edge cases where Ms. Pappert lives close enough that she doesn’t have to move, yet the moving costs incentive still applies.
    I guess we’ll wait and see how much of the $20K she actually claims, and I’ll reserve my reaction to this until then.

    • Craig Chamberlain says:

      How many uses of $20K can we come up with? The test of public benefit is a not quite there… I will explain what I mean, stay tuned.

  3. Steve says:

    The public benefit comes in being able to hire applicants who don’t live in Guelph and offering incentives for them to move, as opposed to being limited to the pool of applicants who already live here. It’s standard practice in business, institutions, charities, and even government.

    If it benefits my employer that I move closer to my place of work then it’s only fair that my employer cover the costs of moving. That same principle applies here.

    And I agree with you that there are several other worthy uses for $20K, and I assume you would share my suggestion that they be added to next year’s budget.

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