Friday, August 24, 2007

The hits just keep on rolling

Today's Windsor Star article - Pay for WUC commissioners soared - brings up several more questions leading to next Monday's Council meeting. (If you want to see the complete chart of Council Remuneration, read this blog post from June of this year. The chart was included as part of Council Communications, distributed to every Councillor)
Coun. Ron Jones, who sits on the board, said the compensation is "a substantial amount of money."
"Certainly that will be something that will be looked at when the audit is being done," Jones said. "I'm certainly prepared to reveal the monies I've made."
Will this be part of the audit?
"The role of our commissioners is greater than for previous members," Francis said. "They have more responsibilities. They have audit and finance committees they sit on. The level of work has increased. We meet to do business. We don't just call meetings for the sake of calling meetings."
If this is the Mayor's impression of former commissioners, certainly a purely financial audit will not provide answers to the public.

It seems strange that since the per meeting payment was instituted above and beyond the flat fee, the length of meetings has decreased while the number has increased. I seem to remember when these huge payment increases were revealed several years ago, former Councillor Joyce Zuk claimed it was a "one-time" increase due to a temporary increase in meetings. She stated that things would return to normal the following year. Three years later and I'm not seeing any return - are you? (I've searched for the quotes mentioned above, but have not been able to find them as yet. If anyone has a copy or reference, drop a note in the comments). Since this has been going on for close to three years now, I asked the question in June and will ask it here again - is this being used to backdoor an increase in pay for Councillors?

Coun. Drew Dilkens said he wasn't aware how much WUC board members make or how much time they spend at meetings.

"The whole point of having an audit is to look into the problems there," Dilkens said. "We are trying to get the answers through an audit."

Hopefully Councillor Dilkens and all the other Councillors remember this statement as they consider who and how the terms of reference for this audit are drafted.

Which brings us to the last and most pertinent question. Are current and past WUC commissioners going to be involved in drafting the terms of reference for the audit? If this is truly going to be an independent audit, this would seem to be a conflict of interest for those Councillors.

As we proceed, considering the shadow hanging over this issue, in-camera meetings closed to the public will not be acceptable. At the very least, the discussion and debate leading to setting the terms of reference must be open to the public. Anything less will simply taint the process before it even begins.

PS. - anyone else think Windsor would be better served if Monica Wolfson was assigned to the City beat? In my mind, things just haven't been the same with that beat since Rosann Danese was shuffled off to other non-print duties. Her blog - Council Notebook - is sorely missed.