The Berry Affair Redux

Ron Bolin —  October 23, 2010
It is rumoured but thus far unverified, that in 2004 a deal was signed between then Mayor Korpan and then City Manager Jerry Berry that provided Mr. Berry a golden parachute either to entice him to stay with the city despite an offer to go elsewhere or to protect him against problems that might arise in the conference centre affair.  To date, all remains cloaked under the mantle of protected personnel privilege despite a previous Freedom of Information (FOI) request.  If, in fact, this rumour is true, its effect remained buried for several  years.

At its “In Camera” meeting of May 14, 2007, Council passed the following resolution:

“That Council direct Staff to update “MANAGEMENT TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT BYLAW 2005 NO. 7000” with respect to employee retention and attraction, including updating the notice provisions therein.”

It is difficult to understand what has to be hidden in an In Camera meeting about a matter which does not touch on individual personnel, but with management staff as a whole.  Why is so much of Nanaimo’s business done behind an iron curtain?

On July 9, 2007, a staff report recommended: “That Council give first three readings to “MANAGEMENT TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT BYLAW AMENDMENT BYLAW 2007 NO. 7000.01″ which appears under the Bylaw section of this evening’s agenda.”  The gist of this amendment was to:

a)      Increase the notice required to be given on termination, i.e. the months of payout required on termination, i.e. the total payout associated with a termination.  At the high end this provided a 33% increase in the notice required from 18 to 24 months and thus a 33% increase in the minimum pay associated with a termination, and,

b)      In my opinion, to open the door to litigation in the case of termination much wider by making the case for exceptions even before going to court by adding section 7.5 which states”

“In making exceptions, Council is to consider the judicial jurisprudence that includes length of service and other factors such as character of employment (e.g. junior or senior manager), age of the employee and availability of comparable employment.”

These changes to Bylaw 7000 seem to be excessive and one would certainly want to hear discussion of why they were necessary.  An increase of 33% in termination pay at one time plus pointing terminated employees to possible causes of action against the taxpayers of Nanaimo should be explained rather than being hidden behind an In Camera meeting.

It should be noted that at the July 9 meeting of Council at which the first three readings of the amendment, Councillors Bestwick and Sherry both opposed the motion and its three readings while Mayor Korpan and the bulk of Council voted for it.

In short, it is my belief that Council, on the recommendation of Staff who were at the time under the management of Mr. Berry, made amendments to bylaw 7000 which materially enhanced Mr. Berry’s position in dealing with his dismissal.  Nothing more nefarious than that was needed to bring about the conditions of Mr. Berry’s very generous deal in which he received both a much higher payout and much better terms than most likely would have occurred under bylaw 7000 prior to its amendment.  I suppose we will never know the extent to which Mr. Berry, as head of staff, was the author of his own aggrandizement but, were the rumour of a 2004 arrangement in this regard true, there certainly would have been time to work toward it and method in the addition of clause 7.5 to the bylaw.

If correct, this interpretation of events does not present Council as staunch defendants of Nanaimo’s taxpayers and perhaps casts some doubts on their roles as fiduciary agents for our citizens.  Remember that the amendment discussed here affect ALL management staff, not just Mr. Berry. Should any of our readers have information which contradicts this interpretation, please come forward.  To date Council remains as an impenetrable block on this subject.

By the way:  Bylaw 7000 as consolidated shows another amendment, 7000.02 which improved the extended health benefits of the “Officer or Management/Excluded Employee.  I believe that these benefits were subsequently extended to Council, a not inconsiderable perk.