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Wildfire, flooding led to $490K in TNRD staff costs in 2021

That is less than the $582,000 expensed in 2017, 20 per cent of which ($117,000) went to then-CAO Sukh Gill
TNRD boardroom

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has released its annual Statement of Financial Information.

The report shows $489,562 paid to staff for wildfire and flooding events in 2021.

TNRD CAO Scott Hildebrand said staff worked 75 days in a row in the emergency operations centre during fires, clocking in significant hours each day. He said once that EOC shut down, another reopened for eight weeks to respond to flooding.

Last summer in the regional district, most buildings in the Village of Lytton burned down, while the entire City of Merritt was evacuated to Kamloops due to extreme flooding in November. Hildebrand pointed to July 1. Staff had already worked a 14-hour day when a lightning storm in tinder dry conditions led to fires being sparked.

“We were on our way out the door and saw that happen, so we stopped and we engaged and continued on,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand was paid $44,828 in emergency operations pay on top of his $211,463 salary. Hildebrand said he spent a lot of time working in the EOC, but he was conscious to ensure work-life balance, often handing off work to other staff.

In 2017, the TNRD paid staff $582,000 for work done during fires and floods, of which 20 per cent went to former CAO Sukh Gill.

One recommendation stemming from last year’s BDO Canada forensic audit of the regional district was updates to emergency operations centre compensation policy that would include requirements to attend and guidance surrounding charging time.

Gill — whose spending between 2015 and 2020 led to a KTW investigation and, ultimately, the forensic audit — charged the province $117,000 in overtime wages during the floods and fires of 2017. That was in addition to a salary that year of $206,000.

In 2019, Gill was paid a salary of $222,000 and claimed nearly $30,000 in expenses in his final year at the regional district.

Hildebrand expensed a fraction of that in 2021 — $1,988.

According to a progress indicator on the TNRD’s website, last updated on June 8, the EOC recommendation stemming from the forensic audit is 80 per cent complete.

Gill was listed in the SOFI report, having been paid $162,887 last year despite having departed the regional district in February 2020. Gill received a settlement agreement upon his departure valued at more than $500,000, including salary continuance, vacation days, CPA fees and a legal agreement that his departure be termed a “retirement.”

The SOFI report also has a section detailing severances and severance pay.

One severance agreement was noted in the SOFI report and payments in 2021 pursuant to a severance agreement between the TNRD and a non-unionized employee, which commenced in 2020. Payments in 2021 represented six months of compensation, the report states.

In 2021, regional district staff were paid a total of $10.1 million in remuneration and expensed $109,000, which is down from $131,049 in expenses detailed in the 2020 SOFI report. Chief financial officer Doug Rae was paid $155,673, slightly lower than his 2020 remuneration of $156,361, the reports show. Rae also expensed less in 2021 — $3,864 compared to $5,167 in 2020.

IN 2021, the TNRD board was paid $611,612 and expensed $73,395. In 2020, the TNRD board was paid $607,700 and expensed $85,706. In 2021, TNRD board chair Ken Gillis was paid $49,507 and expensed $11,426. Gillis’ expenses rose in 2021, compared to 2020, during which he expensed $9,380.

Kamloops directors were paid and expensed:

• Coun. Dale Bass was paid $16,578 in 2021 and expensed $671, compared to $16,843/$1,504 in 2020;

• Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian was paid $16,903 and expensed $23, compared to $17,353/$1,590 in 2020;

• Coun. Dieter Dudy was paid $15,183 and expensed $19, compared to $15,513/$96 in 2020;

• Coun. Mike O’Reilly was paid $15,833 and expensed $19, compared to $14,538/$120 in 2020;

• Coun. Kathy Sinclair was paid $16,148 and expensed $19, compared to $15,833/$96 in 2020;

• Coun. Arjun Singh was paid $15,673 and expensed $19, compared to $14,218/$122 in 2020.

Amazon.com was paid $40,000 by the TNRD in 2021. Hildebrand said it was for library books that could not be sourced locally.

Fulton and Company was paid $68,096 last year, while KPMG LLP was paid $32,472.

The TNRD 2021 Statement of Financial Information:

TNRD 2021 Statement of Financial Information by ChristopherFoulds on Scribd