CAO’s contract mystery

Wolfvillian Lutz Becker has sent us an open letter, an update on questions he has been pursuing with the Town, which we commented on in a previous post , concerning the contract of Wolfville’s CAO.  If you are unaware of the background details of this issue we suggest you read that post first as it will be easier then to follow this update.

In this open letter, which we presume Mr. Becker is leaving also at the Post Office for townspeople to read as he has before, he passes on some information he has received from the Town solicitor concerning how and when the CAO’s contract was twice generously amended. But then he asks more questions. We copy Mr Becker’s letter below in full as he sent it to us. Emphases are his [but formatting may differ from the original].

Lutz Becker: Update on “Wolfville and the Roy Brideau Issue”

On October 20, 2008 and during the official Council meeting I was provided part-draft minutes regarding an answer to a question in relation to the Brideau Employment Contract raised during the Council meeting on September 02. 2008. Finally, Mayor Stead had asked the Town solicitor, Jim Dewar to respond to this question. These part-draft minutes shed some new light on the still pending issue and make the whole Brideau Employment Contract including its Amendments and its history even more questionable and mysterious.

As it is public knowledge, Roy Brideau was appointed by Council as CAO for the Town on May 21, 1996 with the “Motion 10-05-96 Richardson/Martens”.

The original Employment Contract is dated and signed by both parties on May 27, 1996. The solicitor, Jim Dewar, co-signed and witnessed their signatures.

All the mystery starts with the fact that I was unable to find any reference to this Contract, neither in the minutes of Council meetings nor in the minutes of the Committee of Council meetings at the time the Contract was originated. In addition, no “in camera sessions” dealing with “personnel matters” could be found in and around May 1996.

The real question here is: Did this Brideau Employment Contract and its terms and conditions ever made it to the Council table for approval?

Personally, I regard this original Employment Contract and its specifics as a fair and normal employment contract, neither favoring Brideau nor the Town and/or the Wolfville tax payer.

The then following Employment Contract Amending Agreement was signed by Brideau and the Mayor on August 18, 1997 and less than one year and a quarter into the duration of the original three-year contract. Again the Town solicitor, Jim Dewar, was involved and had co-signed and witnessed both party signatures.

As a concerned resident I have a major problem to find any logical reasons for the rush for this Amendment, while there were more than 21 months left with a month-to-month add-on before the original contract might have become void and a different CAO might have become appointed. What was all the rush?

In the minutes of the Council meeting on August 18, 1997 (not signed by the Mayor) it reads that the Amendment to Brideau’s contract was carried in “Motion 19-08-97 Stead/Martens” “in the same form as considered at its Committee of Council meeting in August”.

And again, in checking the minutes of that particular August 1997 Committee of Council meeting no reference and/or indication was to be found that the Amendment to Brideau’s contract and the specifics of it were presented to the Council table and/or discussed at all. And as above, those minutes do not show any break into an “in camera session” discussing “personnel matters” or “contract negotiations”. This additional mystery could not even become clarified by asking a staff member who had signed the minutes as a note taker while the minutes do not show any signature of the Mayor.

And the real question is again: Did this Amendment and its specifics ever made it to the Council table for approval?

Miraculously, those minutes state as well that the Town’s solicitor, Jim Dewar, who signed this Amendment as a witness had left the meeting at 9:53 p.m. and had returned to the meeting at 9:50 p.m. He obviously can beat time in a kind of “time machine”. The Council meeting became adjourned at 10:48 p.m. To me this means that the Amendment was prepared, written, copied and signed by the parties and then witnessed thereafter and before midnight. In my opinion this is possible but very questionable and out of line after such a long Council meeting. Again, what was all the rush?

After less than 15 months duration into the 36-month Employment Contract its terms became changed into a Contract for an indefinite time and Brideau was guarantied a severance payment of one year of salary during the first ten years of service and one month of salary for every year thereafter starting in May 1996 (?) while his Contract starts in June 1996.

In judging this Amendment – done for no obvious reasons – at this point in time, it favors Brideau only and does not favor the residents of the Wolfville community.

The additional Amendment dated February 15, 2007 (2nd Amendment) tops all the previous mysteries regarding Brideau’s Employment Contract by far.

The Town solicitor, Jim Dewar is quoted in the part-draft minutes (as above) as follows: “He [the solicitor] can also say that in that discussion [during the “in-camera session on February 05, 2007] Council did give direction to staff of, or solicitors for, the municipality”. He is quoted as well that the Municipal Government Act prohibits him from both repeating what was discussed at and disclosing his notes of that meeting”. Obviously, the Town solicitor, Jim Dewar, sees his role in working for the Town (Mayor, Council, Staff) only and not for the best interest of the people and taxpayers of Wolfville, who actually pay for his services. Any future role of a Town’s solicitor should be revised at least under the headline transparency.

Under the assumption that Mayor Stead can be regarded as “staff”, the questions here are:

·        Did the Council  entitle and authorize Mayor Stead to somehow negotiate and finalize Brideau’s compensation package as part of his Employment Contract?

·        Did the Council provide Mayo Stead with a “card blanche” and when was this   done?

In the part-draft minutes (as above) it is stated that “the letter was in error” regarding the four decisions reached “during the in-camera session” on February 05, 2007. There seem to be many more parts of Brideau’s Employment Contract “in error” as well. Even independent of the still open question if the four decisions were taken during the “in-camera session” or outside of it, any four decisions under the law should have been part of published minutes, based on documented motions passed.

And again a third times the question: Did this 2nd Amendment and its specifics ever made it to the Council table for approval?

The Amendment letter was written and signed by Mayor Stead on February 15, 2007. There were no Council meetings scheduled between February 05, 2007 and February 15, 2007, when the Council would have been able to approve the “negotiated changes” to Brideau’s contract.

Stead’s letter (2nd Amendment) has tremendous implications on Brideau’s Employment Contract. Interestingly, it shows an entirely different format, compared to the Amendment of 1997. There is no “real” agreement signed by both parties. The Town solicitor, Jim Dewar, does not seem to be involved at all. Of course, Brideau would have been a complete fool not to accept the letter of Mayor Stead.

The serious implications of this Amendment letter rise questions like:

* Was it the intention of the majority of Council to provide Mayor Stead with “directions” to increase the Town’s yearly contributions to Brideau’s retirement plan from 5% (original contract) to 12 % and 15% and 18%  of his yearly salary?
* Was it the intention of the majority of Council to provide Mayor Stead with “directions” to delete the provision in Brideau’s original contract that his work performance had to be fully evaluated at least once in a year as a base for potential yearly salary increases by providing salary increases four years in advance?
* Was it the intention of the majority of Council to provide Mayor Stead with “directions” to change Brideau’s Employment Contract with this 2nd Amendment that way that Brideau does not really have to work at all and the Town will have to pay more than $100,000 a year for his presence at theTown hall?
* Is there no Councillor with courage to stand up and disclose to the Wolfville tax payer and the public what actual directions were given to Mayor Stead and by doing so re-establish the trust into our Council instead of hiding behind “closed doors” within the law like the Town solicitor, Jim Dewar?

To me this whole Brideau issue does not only stink, it reeks of collusion. According to the minutes since 1996 the Brideau Contract plus Amendments never existed.

During the recent Municipal Elections the overwhelming majority of voters rejected the re-election of Mayor Stead. Perhaps, he should regard resignation?

LEB, October 27, 2008

Here are the minutes of the Sept 02, 2008 meeting Mr. Becker referred to in his first paragraph.  The question was actually put by Mr. Daniels concerning a letter Mr. Becker had written to Council in Feb. asking questions about the CAO’s contract.

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9 responses to “CAO’s contract mystery

  1. so, who do you suggest becomes mayor instead? One of the three candidates with fewer votes than Stead? Go off man, get a job and don’t waste our time with your rants

  2. You are talking of course to Mr. Becker who wrote the words above about the mayor resigning; we have said nothing about Mr. Stead resigning. We do think it was a mistake for Mr. Stead to change his mind and re-offer when he had originally (wisely we think) decided not to.

  3. While I am reluctant to reply to Mr. Becker as he has no intentions of listening, I feel that people are entitled to the truth. All of the actions of this Council and I am sure previous Councils were in accordance with the Municipal Government Act and were in fact legal. The last set of changes made to Mr. Brideau’s contract were made legally as the Town’s Solicitor reported to Council and the public at the meeting of Oct. 6, 2008. The Solicitor was present at the in camera session which Mr. Becker refers to.

    Mr. Becker has challenged Councillors to state what was said at an in camera session which would in itself be a violation of the Act so clearly I cannot comment. I can say that I am in agreement with the contents of the letter that Mayor Stead wrote to Roy Brideau. If I were not it would have been my responsibility and the responsibility of any member of Council to bring forward objections at the time the letter was sent and not two years later.

    There is no mystery regarding the contract other than those who want to create one. It was legally signed and has been legally amended when in the view of both parties an amendment was warranted. If you do not believe me ask the Solicitor. Mr Becker’s interpretation of the effect of the amendments to Mr. Brideau’s performance appraisals or his need to continue the excellent work he has done are incorrect.

    I have not looked through the records of the Town trying to find errors. Is there another set of unsigned minutes, it would not surprise me. Was the letter the Mayor sent worded incorrectly in the first line, yes. Did it change the intent of the letter, no. Did someone miss adding one line to a set of minutes which would only have noted that an in camera session had been concluded, yes. Did the omission of that line change what happened or the public knowledge of what happened, no. I am sure that reasonable people understand that any employer does not negotiate a contract or discuss personnel matters in public.

    In the six Councils I have served on one thing has been consistent and that was the people working on them have worked in what they believed to be the best interests of this town and the citizens that we represent. Roy Brideau is a valued leader of the staff of this Town. He has a well deserved reputation throughout this province at both the Provincial and Municipal level for his skills as a CAO. He is paid a salary and benefits which are in keeping with the salaries paid for his position in this Province. He does not deserve to be treated in the fashion that Mr. Becker has and continues to treat him in the various letters that he has sent.

    Mr. Becker should realize that Bob Stead was re-elected Mayor of this Town in accordance with Canadian election law by receiving the most votes. If he needs to resign because he does a have clear majority then so does virtually every MP and MLA we have in the Province. You can believe that people vote against someone or vote for someone, in either case the Mayor had the most support or the fewest in opposition of any of the candidates and that makes him our Mayor for the next four years.

  4. My take on the Stead-Becker-Wrye debate… Some former Councilors (at least Wrye and Stead) dig Mr Brideau and boy they got a deal for him. It’s all legal, of course. Stead and Brideau will live happily ever after — just so long as they can continue to mine the tax-payer. Contributing to such a good cause gives me that warm fuzzy feeling….

  5. In the recent elections, 790 voted for change and 542 voted for Stead. (Assuming the count can be trusted.). I agree with Robert Wrye, of course Stead should be Mayor and I would not dream of having it any other way. But Stead can’t expect to have an “easy ride” when most of the electorate voted against his holier-than-thou policies and heavy-handed taxation.

  6. Tired of the BS

    Well said Mr. Deputy Mayor. This Becker character has some kind of axe to grind, and likes to blur the facts when convenient. Give it a rest Becker.

  7. We don’t doubt that Mr. Brideau’s contract could be defended on legal grounds. [Mr. Becker apparently thinks otherwise.]

    And we certainly don’t fault the CAO for accepting such generous contract amendments. Who wouldn’t?

    What WE question is why Council agreed to such generous terms, and in the case of the first amendment, before the end of the contract period.

    And did the second amendment need to be so generous?

    The contract may not be illegal, that is for others to decide. But was it in the Town’s financial interest? Is it irresponsible?

  8. In response to your comments, in any business employees are paid not only in relation to their qualifications and job performance but in accordance with what the competition pays for the same position. If you do not, you can neither attract nor keep the people that you want.

    Government is no different. The salaries paid to qualified CAO’s have risen sharply over the past ten years due mostly to high demand and short supply. If you look at the last three hired they are all paid more than ours and two had no previous experience as a CAO.

    Employment contracts are written on the basis of the information available and the circumstances at the time they are signed. If those change amendments are needed. It is surely more responsible to react to a need for change than it is to stubbornly insist that “that’s the way it is” and potential not have something work as well as it could or lose something that is valuable.

    In both amendments Council acted in what it believed to be the best interests of the Town including the financial interests. It can always be argued that we were wrong, but the changes were made after a great deal of discussion and in good faith.

  9. Pingback: More on the CAO’s contract « Ww - Wolfville watch - Ww