Speaking to The Telegram on the phone Thursday, Wells revealed that while he was drawing a $223,400 annual salary as chairman of the Public Utilities Board (PUB), he was also receiving a pension from the City of St. John’s worth about $40,000 per year.
Wells said that if he becomes mayor in Tuesday’s election, he’ll stop receiving the city pension, but he will continue to receive his PUB pension — worth about $34,000 annually.
“Look, I will say to anybody that the pension I earned, that I was entitled to as a consequence of my service at city hall, is well known. There’s nothing hidden here,” Wells said.
In August, The Telegram filed access to information requests with the City of St. John’s and the Public Utilities Board, seeking information about Wells’ remuneration and pensions.
The City of St. John’s said it couldn’t reveal information about Wells’ pension without his consent. On Thursday, the city gave its final verdict to The Telegram.
“The City of St. John’s is of the opinion that disclosure of the personal information as requested without the consent (of Andy Wells) would be an unreasonable invasion of their privacy,” the letter from the City of St. John’s said. “(Wells) was contacted on August 28, 2017 and did not consent to the release of the information within the prescribed timeline. As such your request for information has been denied.”
Wells has made government transparency and municipal financial accountability one of the major themes of his mayoral campaign. He has castigated the current administration for being secretive about municipal finances.
Reached for comment late Thursday afternoon, Wells said he actually didn’t mean to block disclosure of The Telegram’s access to information request.
“I just forgot to respond. I have no problem with the release of that information,” Wells said.
“Look b’y, I must have forgotten, but what do you want to know, I will tell you now.”
Wells said his pension as former mayor of St. John’s was roughly $40,000.
“It’s around $40,000. I don’t have the exact amount. It might be $41,000,” he said.
If elected mayor, he would stop receiving that pension, but he will draw another pension from the PUB.
“I’ve been contributing to a pension plan for the last, well, I guess it’s nine years,” he said.
“So, it’s a 50-50 contribution, and I’ve earned apparently around — I haven’t got the final amount — but I think it’s around $34,000.”
He then corrected himself.
“Look, so that you don’t call me a liar, because it’s probably closer to $35,000. It may be $34,600 or something. The exact amount we’re in the process of calculating now.”
Wells also received a $38,657.93 severance payment when he resigned from the PUB in August and announced he was running for mayor.
Wells acknowledged he didn’t actually contribute to the City of St. John’s pension plan during his many years on council, because that was the structure at the time. The policy for many years was to give a pension worth 60 per cent of the mayor’s salary, and there was no requirement for politicians to pay into a pension plan.
On the matter of Wells denying disclosure in response to The Telegram’s access to information request, Wells repeatedly insisted that it was an innocent mistake.
“Look, I’m consenting now. It’s one of those things that I forgot about it in the midst of other issues, but I have nothing to hide, so you have now full disclosure,” he said.
If Wells loses the election next week, he will be out of a job, but he will be entitled to collect both pensions.