Miller, retiring councillors hit the bank
Severance pay may top $1 million
By DON PEAT, Toronto Sun
Why say goodbye when it’s so much easier to say cheque please?
Toronto taxpayers face a bill of almost $1 million for a goodbye gift to get Mayor David Miller and several retiring councillors out the City Hall door.
Miller’s $167,769.94 golden handshake, plus the severance pay for the four councillors who have announced they won’t run again in the fall and the three councillors running for mayor, will push the taxpayer-funded tab to more than $800,000.
Four other incumbent councillors have yet to register for another run or formally announce their retirement. Assuming that just two leave, the overall severance package will surpass $1 million. It will get even higher if other incumbents in the running are not re-elected.
A sweet package is given to every departing councillor — whether they quit or get voted out. They get a month’s pay — based on their 2010 salary of $99,619.52 — multiplied by every year of service up to a maximum of 12 months. City staff confirmed this week that the severance will be based on the 2010 salary, which was upped by less than 1% as a result of a mandated, annual cost-of-living increase.
That means long-serving councillors such as Kyle Rae, Michael Walker and Case Ootes will be hitting the retirement road with a full year’s pay. Even young Millerite Councillor Adam Giambrone will have a city paycheque for the first seven months after he leaves city politics.
Retiring Councillor Case Ootes didn’t have much to say about the severance.
“It’s there and obviously I have a vested interest,” he said Wednesday. “Some people will say we shouldn’t get anything.
“That’s what’s there and I’m not going to turn it down.”
Walker, a 28-year veteran of council, said the severance always has been available to members.
“It’s not out of order,” Walker said, adding the severance and pension for Ottawa MPs is more generous. “In the public service there is definitely a pattern like this.”
Walker said that because the severance is capped, veteran councillors still leave with not much more than a two- or three-term councillor.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong — who is running again for reelection and wouldn’t be eligible for severance unless he loses — stands by the parting payouts for the outgoing mayor and councillors.
“When elected officials leave City Hall, like any other profession, they need time to transition into future employment,” Minnan-Wong said. “It’s not unreasonable to say there should be some consideration for that.
“If you want to treat the position in a serious way, it has to be treated like other serious jobs.”
Even if all three of the three councillors running for mayor lose the election to a council outsider, they still win golden parachutes.
Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Joe Pantalone each would get a full-year’s pay. Pantalone told the Sun’s editorial board in February he’s also eligible to collect his council pension.
Councillor Rob Ford would get the smallest severance package of the trio, because he was elected to council only 10 years ago, worth 10 months pay.
Ford called the payout “too lucrative” and bizarrely structured when you consider Ootes spent more than 20 years on council and his severance pay is almost equal to that of Giambrone, who was elected only in 2003.
“That’s a pretty sweet goodbye package,” Ford said. “There’s something wrong with it.
“I don’t mind them getting something but I have a problem with the lump sum … essentially for years you were already paid for and on top of a pension.”
Ford vowed that if elected mayor, he’d scrap the $3,500 in career counselling to which each departing councillor is also entitled and would review the severance pay.
If he doesn’t win the mayor’s race and is forced to take the package, Ford said he would donate his to charity, half to his football foundation for kids and half to the Cancer Society in memory of his father.