Top St. John’s severance package: $535,000

Daniel MacEachern
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Severance packages paid out by St. John’s for its early retirement incentive program topped half a million dollars.

St. John's Coun. Art Puddister

Coun. Art Puddister tabled the individual packages at council’s regular meeting Monday, breaking down the $7.1 million paid to 29 senior employees.

“I hope the general public will understand, although some of these packages, especially to some of the senior people, may exceed a half-million dollars,” he said.

Puddister noted that in addition to owed severance, some packages included pay in other areas, such as sick leave and annual leave employees would have been entitled to had they stayed.

The top five packages were:

• $534,615.10 for Paul Mackey, former manager of public works;

• $519,654.41 for Dave Blackmore, former manager of planning, development and engineering;

• $424,311.79 for Bob Bishop, former manager of financial management;

• $383,294.23 for Bob Bursey, former city solicitor;

• $376,580.41 for Jill Brewer, former manager of community services.

Puddister said he has some concerns about the packages but accepts that the city will save money in the long run.

“We’re told it’s going to save money, about $1.5 million a year, and after the next two years we’re going to save about $3 million. I’ll take the staff at their word,” he said, noting it’s the salary continuance — $3.2 million in total — that will be paid to retiring employees for the next four to 18 months depending on the package. “I am a bit concerned about the precedent that it sets, that somebody (with) their years of service in with the city now are going to expect a salary continuance of 12 to 18 months.”

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said the payouts were geared to a net savings to the city.

“There’s a long-term net benefit to that expenditure,” he said, adding that the numbers were not “flimsily” calculated. “Most of those numbers were arrived at through our human resources department, and they go through it in detail with the individuals based upon salary continuance to bring them up to their retirement. … If you can spend a dollar and save two, then in the long run that’s a good deal.”

We’re told it’s going to save money, about $1.5 million a year, and after the next two years we’re going to save about $3 million. I’ll take the staff at their word. Coun. Art Puddister

O’Keefe said he wasn’t upset Puddister tabled the numbers.

“I’ve said time and time again, we’ve got an open city hall, and there are some things that have to remain confidential in terms of what happens at special meetings, because they could be of a legal nature, they could involve intergovernmental affairs, they could involve personnel issues, privacy issues, but when it comes to figures and facts and things like the information Coun. Puddister tabled today, that’s the way it should be.”



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Recent comments

  • been thinkin
    February 20, 2016 - 13:31

    Salary continuance of 12-18 months that to me means they continue to accrue bebfeits including sick, annual leave and a few more percent added to the pension for life

  • steve
    February 17, 2016 - 12:31

    Another meeting with the union last night. Trouble is coming to all rate payers .Something big is going on at city hall and I think something will hit the fan soon. Municipal Affairs needs to get in on this right away.Vocm is reporting a meeting between union leaders and city staff regarding red flags about the current situation and goings on at city hall. This is getting serious. The golden goose AKA the rate payers should be worried. Too many pigs in the trough .

  • Ed
    February 17, 2016 - 12:27

    I sure hope we all remember this when the next election is held.

  • Artie
    February 17, 2016 - 11:42

    The Budget debacle in St John's is starting to give me a headache. I think that social media, news media and protesters should keep this issue alive and in the front lines but if you want to make a true impact on council, there is another solution. My solution is not easy, in fact it is almost impossible to acheive, but I have seen it work once before. St. Johns's taxpayers need to band together on a huge scale, like mile one scale and then announce to the city council and mayor that until the current financial issue is solved and these multi million severance packages cut, then Business and taxpayers of St John's should simply not pay their taxes. Yes, refuse. Flat out. 10 or 20 people will not cut it. It will take hundreds, then thousands but if the threat to shut down the City by witholding their needed revenue, you will get a better response. I have seen this work before because one cannot take everyone to court. These officials work for you, and not the other way around. In my opinion, taxes pay these jokers salaries, so stop paying the tax, insist that these councellors take leave of their positions due to failure to meet the requirements of their job, and then watch the dominoes fall. People have the power, not the officials. Use your strength and simply end the problem by giving the City no choice. Shut them down if they do not listen to the constituants. Several years ago, there was a town meeting at a town I lived in where tax increases were announced. The people at the meeting (taxpayers), simply said that a tax hike would not be accepted by the townspeople. The next day the papers, and news outlets were flooded with refusals to pay additional tax. Within days the amendment was removed from the table. No law siuts, no muss , no fuss. Some of my friends have been instrumental in St. John's informing the public of what is happening in that city. Well, time to get loud, harsh , and very serious. Throw refusal in the face of politicians, and they will respond. If they threaten court, simply ask for an early court date. If enough people refuse, the dockets will not be able to handle it, council will be held accountable, and with some luck, common sense will prevail. Sound "out there.". well it is,, but many great accomplishments happened by extremem measures, non violent, but effective. Think of it this way. The council is made up of petulant children , I mean adults. Take away their toys....sorry, I mean power. without it, the are nothing. Insist on change, and be willing to take the steps necessary to get control of the idiots in the St John's council chamber. If you show the City of St. John's who is really in charge, change will be inevitable.

  • Cas
    February 16, 2016 - 20:47

    Scandalous! This will lead to bankruptcy! Doesn't anyone care? Shame!

  • Rosebyanyothername
    February 16, 2016 - 16:41

    I am appalled and more than disgusted. I am barely hanging on to my humble, little home because of the tax hikes this year, and now this. What fools we have become to tolerate this group of misguided, incompetent individuals. Where is our fight, have we have become a spineless people? We, the people, together, have a strong voice and we need to speak out, loudly, about these severance packages and the glaring ineptitude that defines St. John's City Hall.

  • Catherine
    February 16, 2016 - 13:42

    Correct me if I'm wrong..........but these positions are NOT union positions. They are management out-of-scope positions. I do not believe the City would afford the Union employees this golden handshake.

  • roy206
    February 16, 2016 - 13:31

    I'd like to know exactly who was at the table when the plan was hatched and see a cost analysis for myself....Is this more school teacher logic...Private industry does not think like this nor can they afford to. It has to be tough on industry to pass along your taxes when you see it being spent like this. I'm glad it is finally in the open because all the communities are alike..Hat's off to Bob and his group and shame on the silent Board of Trade.

  • Dave Crosbie
    February 16, 2016 - 13:17

    It would be nice if they had provided a calculation for how they arrived at these amounts: Did the retiring people just get paid what they would have gotten had they stayed? Did we pay them everything they would have gotten had they stayed? They got full pay and did not have to show up any more? Did we pay out unused sick leave? Surely not...but we don't know unless they provide more information. And have they all been replaced? How did staff calculate the savings? It is apparent from what O'Keefe and Puddister say, that no one on council has any idea about any of this. Please make the information available.

  • Ray Fleming
    February 16, 2016 - 10:29

    How can you give out five severance packages totaling over two million dollars, hire five new managers to do their jobs,then give them all a pension and save $7million?Is this the newmath?

  • mike
    February 16, 2016 - 10:23

    Make no wonder Paul Mackey had that big smile on his face when they interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.

  • Elizabeth
    February 16, 2016 - 10:05

    I wonder ,how many of the staff live outside the city and don't give a hoot about the city. Iwould like to know and doc PLEASE resign.

  • james
    February 16, 2016 - 09:37

    any wonder pensions funds are in deficits,these people are out of control, we as tax payers are been used as ATM machines

  • Sparky
    February 16, 2016 - 09:18

    I read in The Overcast this past week that the Mayor and Councilors are mostly old retired school teachers and such and don't read social media so the only purpose of these comments would be letting off steam. This Council is out of control and should be ashamed to show their faces, but to listen to Denis O'Keefe yesterday on CBC, he says we have the best council we ever had. Well I think I'd take Rob Ford over this bunch of clowns as they are totally inept if they think paying out $7.1M is a good financial decision. I called the 311 line this morning to report the state of the sidewalks with their lack of gravel and the lady on 311 was just as dismissive as the councilors so they have trained those people well.

    • Mr. Realistic
      February 16, 2016 - 09:43

      This council is a joke. They should all be made to resign immediately. As for the staff at the 311 line, most of them are ignorant pigs. They probably get paid $30 or more an hour to act like that. Waste of time calling. They never show up anyway. One outdoor worker blew grass and rock all over my driveway, while mowing grass. I asked her to sweep it up. She got all snotty and saucy with me. Where do they find these people that work with the City. I sometimes wonder.

  • Observer
    February 16, 2016 - 09:09

    After reading these comments, it is clear to me that people still don't get it. With all the discussion here about payouts and accumulated sick leave and unpaid sick leave, exorbitant salaries and overall fiscal mismanagement, obviously it is the union that is running city hall, not council. The unions negotiated these sweet deals with council's blessing. Must have been the easiest and sweetest round of negotiation that ever took place and the union laughed all the way to the proverbial bank. The mayor and council were sweet and chummy with the union and now this is the result. It is way past time for a light to shine on every aspect, every negotiation, every project, every deal, every proposal that goes on at the municipal level of government. They have avoided scrutiny for years, and I guess we let them away with it. It is now time to open up city hall and require that more of this stuff happen within council chambers. They could start with an open and transparent budget debate and discussion right in the chamber for all citizens to witness for themselves.

    • edwartt
      February 16, 2016 - 09:53

      These are all management positions . Not union positions.

    • JJT
      February 16, 2016 - 10:11

      What does the union have to do with the people mentioned in this story? Managers aren't in the union. Try again.

    • john
      February 16, 2016 - 23:12

      Yes, chummy with the unions. The urban legend I heard was that back in the 70s when Dorothy Wyatt was mayor, negotiations went like this. The union told council they wanted a five percent wage increase and Dottie told them they could have eight per cent. It was a really tough negotiation as you can imagine. Same mentality today. Ask for the sky and you shall receive it. And all this clap trap about wait until the next election. It is the same ones who get in over and over and over. Half the citizens of St. John's said they hated Andy Wells yet he was there for decades and left on his own terms when it suited him.

  • Tired
    February 16, 2016 - 08:57

    The government is filled with layers of managers who do virtually nothing. Many are actually just keeping others from getting work done. They don't want to learn anything and they don't want anything to change. They just want to sit on their hands, schedule meetings and delay improvements until their retirement in a few years. Those people are immune to layoffs. They have seniority and that would require their managers to want to improve things or get involved in what's happening underneath them. The highly trained employees at the bottom who do all the work will get cut again. And maybe that's for the best, since they can leave the province and find a better job elsewhere. Somewhere skilled trades or an education is paid more than a custodian with seniority or an unskilled employee who's only qualification is being higher up in the hierarchy. Oh and don't think government employees aren't delaying their retirement waiting for packages like these. Much of this money is going to people who would have retired anyway.

  • Taxpayer
    February 16, 2016 - 08:55

    Congratulations to the senior managers on their lottery winnings. I'm sure they'll have no problem paying higher property taxes. Too bad the rest of us can't say the same.

  • oww
    February 16, 2016 - 08:30


  • dan
    February 16, 2016 - 08:18

    Its been a few years now since their last increase so I expect it is about that time when the council vote salary increases for themselves.

  • Resident
    February 16, 2016 - 08:07

    Now, it's no wonder the taxes of everyone else had to be so highly increased. Is those severences justified?

  • Bob Hallett
    February 16, 2016 - 08:07

    What is really depressing about this is that all these people also received the 18% raise as part of their salary continuance; in essence, they get a raise for a job they are no longer doing. It is absolutely scandalous. Even worse, the Mayor and Council also get the same raise. So not only do they beggar the residents and commercial property owners with their awful budget, they gave themselves a sweet raise in the bargain. And Puddester, who is getting paid to read and understand this stuff, is not even sure if this makes any sense, he is just going to take staff at their word. And finally, if releasing this info was such a good idea, how come the Mayor did not do it three months ago, when this decision first came to light... Depressing.

    • buddy
      February 16, 2016 - 09:39

      good citizens and business owners are paying for the raises,,packages, and metro bus raises.citizens should protest at city hall,.. have a concert on the steps ,, time to get rid of the existing council..all of them..

  • Ev
    February 16, 2016 - 08:02

    More money than I made in half a lifetime of working. Must have been getting some salary when they were working.

  • Garry
    February 16, 2016 - 07:16

    $535,000...lets look at the facts.....Mr.Mackay was going to retire anyway....go back in your media files he stated that fact. He already had a pension. The council paid out his unused sick leave....who has ever heard of this perk? Does that mean that Tom Jones on the garbage truck will. also want his sick leave paid out upon retirement? If not why not? Did they replace Mr. Mackay? Someone else is doing the job but she is called a deputy. Same responsibility so where is the money saved? If they can do without these position , then they were overstaffed in the first place so once again fiscal mismanagement. Bob Hallett and company are right, this city is out of control. My taxes went up by $480.00 this year now I know why. There should be a petition and throw these jokers out of office.

  • Thatguy
    February 16, 2016 - 07:09

    Yes Doc, it is the way it should be. We the people have a right to know the dollars and cents of how our taxes are being spent. With that said, is sick leave pay out upon retirement a luxury of all city management and/or staff or just for this select few? If it is for the few, shame. They are already being given more than generous severance packages without gouging a few extra dollars from the public purse. If this is the case for all management than get rid of that policy. I don't believe that anyone, anywhere in the public service should be paid for accumulated sick leave. It is there if you get sick and if you don't get sick you don't get to bank it as cash in hand! That's ludicrous. And I am a public servant.

  • Brian
    February 16, 2016 - 07:00

    This is absolutely outrageous! Typical private sector severance is one month salary per year of service. There is no such thing as paid and accumulated sick leave. Unused vacation in the current year only. With so many people out of work, scores of others with 10% to 15% salary roll backs, and with totally unjustifiable property and business tax increases, this city and it's staff need to seriously give their heads a shake!

  • Sam
    February 16, 2016 - 06:59

    And we wonder why we are in such deep s--- financially. Since when do you pay someone for their sick leave. The amounts shown for management position is "OUT TO LUNCH". Not only are the wages totally out of whack with is community, it came about by these same individuals who were running the show and the council rubber stamps all of this on the backs of the taxpayers. They can't even keep the streets clear after a snow fall. These salaries go far beyond equivalent positions such as deputy ministers in government or senior management positions in the private sector. Many of these same individuals were about to retire any way, so Mr. O'Keefe where's the savings???? What about the impact on the pension fund? They were paying themselves, just as if they were running New York City.

    • Unhappy Resident
      February 16, 2016 - 18:03

      New York City went bankrupt years ago. We are on the verge of bankruptcy both in the City and in the Province. Everyone hates well managed finances until the day the money and credit is all gone. Then it is too late.

  • 007
    February 16, 2016 - 06:53

    Puddister...."I'll take the staff at their word". It was just three days ago he said the staff were running the city instead of council running it. All I can say is Wow! This is what you get when unqualified people are voted in. Voted in due to popularity vs. qualifications or, the lesser of two evils when all are unqualified. They couldn't run a "cat house". ain't seen nothin' yet.

  • steve
    February 16, 2016 - 06:34


  • Ice,am
    February 16, 2016 - 06:25

    This blows my mind,why not let these people work till their retirement age,the other people who were promoted to these jobs could have been reassigned, or laid off, if this is savings ,I wouldn't want to see deficit,it's good to see my tax dollars being wasted away, to pay someone 500000 plus it must be nice ,what aGIFT !

  • Bill
    February 16, 2016 - 06:06

    Spending $7.1 million on retirement packages for employees near the end of their service with the City just does not make sense in an environment when the City had to raise taxes in the double digits in order to achieve it.

  • Political Watcher
    February 16, 2016 - 06:02

    Considering the most recent budget the City just passed they should be hanging their heads in shame. After all, it was this Council who accepted the "Smart" idea of installing half dozen City Managers at an increased cost. They tried to put in an administration to run a city of 100,000 that was just as larger and expensive to run a city five times its size.

  • edwartt
    February 16, 2016 - 05:20

    So why not just lay them off like the rest of us. They look for another job and collect EI. No it's called looking after your friends

  • Ken Collis
    February 16, 2016 - 04:47

    "I’ll take the staff at their word,” he said," Well here we go again, the foxes are still running the henhouse.

  • Me
    February 15, 2016 - 23:10

    This still don't explain it. You pay somebody thousands of $$$$$ to go home and then fill the job so you don't save a salary. You may save some if the replacement is at a lower scale but somebody really needs to look at this. Salary continuance is another word for free money, to the retiree.

  • Dee
    February 15, 2016 - 22:57

    Wow is all I can say we as union employees with Nape as Health Care employees couldn't take sick leave that had accumulated not let alone sick leave that would have accumulated.Now we could take pay for accumulated AL,but not AL that would have accumulated,like to know how one bunch of unionized employees could do this but others can't.We have had employees retire from the health care at 65 and early retirement phg,s and have sick time accumulated 2000-3000 hours but had to leave it,certainly couldn't take unused for pay,that's this is why a lot of retired people go on sick leave for a year before retiring.where as if they could take even a percentage of pay for this you wouldn't see so much sick leave.

    • Unhappy Resident
      February 16, 2016 - 18:00

      This is half the problem with workers…thinking sick leave should be paid out…it is an insurance policy. Taking sick leave prior to retirement because it is going to be 'left on the books' is such a juvenile action that it makes me sick. Sick leave is for sickness. House insurance is for house incidents. Car insurance is for car accidents. And so on. Learn some logic and teach your children to respect work and earn their income, regardless of what others may do. By the way, City Council has now ruined my enjoyment of living in St. John's. My property taxes increased by $720 this year alone. The residents cannot afford to pay off the lottery for the city 'retirees'. The decision to pay those amounts was more than ridiculous, and unwarranted. The Council should be working for us, the residents, not in spite of us.

  • Wallace
    February 15, 2016 - 21:37

    The city paid half million bucks pay out to public works mgr, are you serious! He couldn't even properly manage snow clearing, they had to hire consultants to realize savings, sidewalks weren't even attempted until public backlash was too strong. ..................just use the St. John's city snowplow app that tracks the equipment, at 11 every nite they all go back to the depots for lunch break. So every vehicle wastes time, fuel and valuable snow clearing time so they can eat a sandwich on Blackler Avenue when their route coulda been on Higgins Line. If ya don't believe me, track the plows yourself some storm nite. I just hope he doesn't apply for a job at Metro Bus or the routes will stop so the byes can stop in for a coffee up on Kelsey when their driving the Shea Heights run

  • DWB
    February 15, 2016 - 21:35

    Are you frigging kidding me??? This is the same council that debated the current lousy budget for a whole 90 minutes before forcing a massive tax increase on small downtown businesses. The same businesses that give our city the character is has? (or used to have) They are telling us that "most" of these numbers were reached by city staff? The same city staff that recommended the lousy budget that is being forced on us now? Pretty free with taxpayers money if you ask me! Seriously! Please resign!!! All of you!!!!

  • Disgusted
    February 15, 2016 - 21:24

    What a ridiculous waste of money. With this type of mentality no wonder St. Johns is raising taxes and has no money. What age qualifies for early retirement? Shame on council.

  • John
    February 15, 2016 - 20:00

    So, all/most of the senior staff at city hall resigned or took early retirement. Looks fishy to me. O'Keefe, Galgay and their cronies need to all go. A fish rots at the head first.