Mayor denies candidate's claims of increased salary costs

Garrett Barry
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Dennis O'Keefe defends restructuring from deputy mayor candidate Ron Ellsworth's allegations

Claims made by deputy mayor candidate Ron Ellsworth that major restructuring of staff for the City of St. John's will result in a total salary increase of almost $500,000 is being dismissed by Mayor Dennis O'Keefe.

In a news release on Thursday afternoon, Ellsworth alleged that several new senior city staff will be hired, and that total city salary will increase by $469,142 as a result.

But O'Keefe says Ellsworth is wrong about that figure. According to O'Keefe, the restructuring will not result in any salary increase, due to cuts in other positions.

"When we go through this whole restructuring process, we estimate it to be a zero net balance - the costs will pretty well be nothing," he said.

Four new director positions will be created as a result of the restructuring, but O'Keefe says they will be mostly filled by internal candidates. As a result, other positions will be left vacant, and the mayor says they will be cut.

Currently, the restructuring has increased costs by about $270,000, but O'Keefe says as the restructuring continues, more positions will be left vacant and eventually cut, decreasing total salary costs.

He alleged that Ellsworth has previously received that cost estimate from the city clerk, as well as information regarding the restructuring process. Ellsworth also said that he got his $469,142 estimate from the city clerk.

According to O'Keefe, the city has not undergone such a large restructuring process in at least 25 years.

"It was felt that now is the time to reposition the city in such a way that we could meet (new) challenges," said O'Keefe, speaking about the changes the city has undergone in the past two decades, and the changes he anticipates will come.

"We felt that restructuring and the repositioning would enable city hall to more easily and more efficiently and more functionally serve the needs of the people who live in the city," he said.

As an example, O'Keefe says, the city has gone from having 11 departments to five.

Ellsworth said his larger concern with the restructuring process was a lack of an operational review for the city.

"We should never be OK with what we are doing or not doing," Ellsworth said. "We should be looking for ways to improve. ... We should always be going back and doing a re-look of how we do things to make sure that we're providing the best service that we can with the best dollar that we can."

For example, he wondered if the city can extend hours of operation on its 311 number to better serve the city.

"I have no issue with reorganization, but you can't just move bodies around without looking how it affects the organization," Ellsworth said.

But O'Keefe said such a review is, in fact, being done. He says the restructuring process is dedicated to improving service to the people of St. John's.

He also says the city will undergo a "business re-engineering process," which will "strip (key services) down to their core, and then rebuild the process focusing on a more effective and a more efficient service delivery."

garrett.barry@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Jay
    May 21, 2013 - 05:58

    The comedy show already exists. It just seems that decisions at council are being made on the whims of the mayor. Originally, the city manager position was abolished and the mayor, at that time, was given a hefty raise to take those responsibilities. Now we're getting five new city managers? Why is there a cloak and dagger mentality at city hall. This is taxpayers' money

  • Really
    May 21, 2013 - 01:51

    Promote five Directors to Deputy Commissioners , new pay scale aboe Director, hire five new Directors with engineers degrees as per job postings, get rid of several lower pay jobs and do the math. No by, not gonna cost anymore money. Half million in salaries go a long way on streets such as New Cove Rd and others.

  • NL TURF
    May 20, 2013 - 21:50

    The sign man commeth!! Yes, Ron, we know who you are, so please take it easy on the number of signs , this time round!! Seriously, I hate to say I will be voting for Doc and Duff but you and Sheligh are opportunist's who haven't paid their dues. Ron , how about running at large and Sheligh, how about trying to hold onto your seat. U 2 are basically Rookies who think your better Municipal Politicians, then you really are. Im sick and tired of these egotistical , nose in the air , political wannabees , telling Joe Public that they know how to run our fair city better then 2 long standing individuals . That being said, if 2 'SERIOUS' candidates come forward to replace Doc and Duff, they will be getting my vote.

    • Eli
      May 21, 2013 - 15:20

      Two longstanding individuals who don't have a friggin' clue when it comes to finances or financial responsibility. The harbour cleanup came on Doc's watch.....and it went $40-million dollars over budget. $40,000,000.00! You nuts 'er what?

  • Virginia Waters
    May 20, 2013 - 20:51

    O'Keefe's defence is that the cost of the highly paid new directors will be offset by the elimination of lower level jobs. So at $125K a piece for the suits versus $26K for the working stiffs, as many as 20 jobs would have be cut. In a city where basic services are already among the poorest in the country, that's just what we need - more chiefs and fewer indians. ..... Another poster (perhaps an existing councillor) thought O'Leary/Ellsworth would make a good comedy team. Does he mean funnier than the crew we have now? O'Keefe and company spend our money at the drop of a hat, especially if it pleases their pals in big business and groups like the port authority. You needn't look any further than the rezoning process which can see a complete about-face in the recommendations of senior officials - from negative to positive - in the span of 24 hours when it is for big business. .... O'Keefe keeps harping about all the great things that are happening in St. John's - the huge amount of investment, construction and expansion. What he doesn't acknowledge is that all of this growth is killing the ordinary taxpayer as property taxes soar in step with property revaluations. It should, of course, be the opposite. Average household tax should decrease as the number of taxpayers increase - especially well heeled corporate taxpayers. But it seems the concept of 'economies of scale' is one that is lost on O'Keefe. ... So yes, I think we need some new business management at city hall - but in the mayor's chair not the executive suite. Perhaps a basic dollars-and-cents guy like Ellsworth is what we need. Someone to take a long hard look at how the city carries out its mandate - the mandate given to them by the City of St. John's Act, not the much bigger one they've given to themselves.

  • Taxed to Death
    May 20, 2013 - 15:42

    It sounds like O'Keefe is playing with words.............no increase because of cuts means there is an increase. Just keep the cuts and stop the BS BS BS. He needs to go if in fact that is what he is doing (playing with words to the taxpayer) Sure sounds like it !!!!!

  • John
    May 20, 2013 - 15:01

    Dennis is what you are saying these 4 people already doing these jobs this is just a new title and pay raise.!,Spending in my opinion is out of control at city hall.I hope thie deal with Bristol is discussed in the council chambers not just in Special meeting.

  • harry
    May 20, 2013 - 12:12

    wonder if they could hire someone to finish the job they started on hoyles ave last year its a disgrace and eyesore and dangerous for children and adults alike

    • David
      May 20, 2013 - 20:24

      Harry, why don't you go down to RJG 's office and get a job to finish the project for them.

  • John
    May 20, 2013 - 11:30

    If O'leary gets elected mayor and Ellsworth gets elected depudy mayor the council chamber at the city of St. John's will become a bigger draw for comedy seekers that Yuck Yucks on Kemnount road. That will be the only good news story though. Everything else will go to hell in a hand basket if those two ever get in positions of power!

  • Edmund
    May 20, 2013 - 10:17

    Let's hear what the City Clerk, Neil Martin, has to say about this and put the issue to bed once and for all. Getting to be that the public is having a harder time believing any politicians these days. As the City Clerk was the one who has been referenced in this as giving Ellsworth the numbers and info, get his explaination.

  • ger
    May 20, 2013 - 10:09

    Well here we go with the start of the silly season with allegations flying everywhere. Maybe you should hook up with Mr. Chaulk--definitely winners

  • Kim
    May 20, 2013 - 10:08

    Mr O"Keefe just come clean now ,instead off all the lies..The truth will come out.The taxpayer's have had enough bulls..t to deal with....Your another Miss Dunderdale...Is there any HONESTY left in the corrupt councils or government...How many buddies will get on councils payroll....Time for awhole new restructuring of city hall alright....when is the election...we need new people who's going to look after our tax dollars,not put them in money grabber's pocket's...You must be taking lesson's from the CROOKED PREMIER WE HAVE

  • Eli
    May 20, 2013 - 10:07

    At least O'Keefe is acknowledging Ellsworth's assessment tht somethin's going on. The situation is similar to a hospital reorganization years ago when Peckford froze salaries in he civil service. Hospitals merely changed a bunch of management titles changing Administrators to Executive Directors with sizeable increases in pay. Cute wot?

  • hslaw
    May 20, 2013 - 09:47

    Mr Ellsworth you are a business man Have toy ever restructured your company to make it more efficient and had the initial cost rise.But in the interm save money because of correcting inefficientcies? And by doing that put more cash in your pocket but in this case save the city money?

  • Political Watcher
    May 20, 2013 - 09:06

    With the City Manager and all the Deputy Managers and the Directors now in place, Doc's position is no longer a full-time one therefore his salary should be rolled back to the part-time rate of $40,000.00. Afterall, the salary was increased when Wells took over full time in the absence of a senior manager.