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

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on February 15, 2016
St. John's Coun. Art Puddister

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

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.”

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.”