EDITORIAL: A public right to know

An FOI request should not have been required to obtain the financial details regarding these three city hall employees...

Through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy request, The News was recently able to shed light on the financial details involved in the departure of three senior city managers.

That information was of importance, since the termination or even voluntary resignation of high-ranking civil servants is commonly accompanied with compensation packages, frequently involving six-figure sums.

In the case of the City of Abbotsford’s finance manager Pat Soanes, who left in June, the settlement was $88,550, climbing to just over $100,000 when vacation pay and remaining wages are included.

Bylaw enforcement manager Gordon Ferguson, who left in July, received $28,102, with no settlement.

The true cost of  the June departure of Jay Teichroeb, general manager of economic development and planning, is yet to be seen, since he received only $18,796, without a compensation package. We now know that Teichrob is suing the city for wrongful dismissal.

If an out-of-court settlement does not occur, a judge will eventually determine if Teichroeb’s termination was justified, or whether the city must pay damages.

In either case, the amount is likely to be substantial.

That’s a concerning question for taxpayers, but it is outweighed by another one – far more basic.

An FOI request should not have been required to obtain the financial details regarding these three city hall employees.

Their salaries, benefits and any departing compensation and costs are paid entirely from public money.

Abbotsford taxpayers have the right to know all of those details – quickly, as a matter of city policy – without having to wait for the media to utilize provincial legislation to compel the release of what is clearly public information.

There’s been much political talk about transparency and accountability at city hall.

In this respect, let’s see it.

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