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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

County defers adopting Procedure By-Law, seeks third-party quotes to review Council pay

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Essex County Council deferred adopting its new Procedure By-Law, which provides rules governing the order and proceedings of the Council of the Corporation of the County of Essex, committees, and local boards.

  Though County Councillors seemed to be content with the changes made in the newly reviewed document that a consultant recommended after reviewing the current document, there were many comments across the County Council table regarding Council remuneration.

  The deferral will give staff a chance to reach out to get tenders from possible third-party consultants to get quotes and timelines associated with creating a review of the remuneration schedule for County Councillors.

  Mary Birch, Director of Legislative and Community Services/Clerk, explained that through the Municipal Act, every municipality in the province has to have a Procedure By-law to govern the calling, place, and proceedings of meetings.

  In some cases, the Procedure By-Law is expanded to include other matters which provide Council and Administration guidance, such as the Council and the appointment of committees and local boards.

  Though the Essex County Procedure By-Law has been reviewed and updated multiple times in the past few years to reflect changes in legislation, there has not been a comprehensive review of the Procedure By-law since 2014, the Report to County Council notes.

  A consultant was appointed to review the County’s Procedure By-Law, and was asked to make recommendations on the Parliamentary Procedure section.

  The Report to Council notes the proposed Procedure By-law includes the addition of a definitions section, a consolidation of some prior amendments, including changes to allow for participation in electronic meetings, as well as a complete revision of the Parliamentary Procedure, Motion, Voting and Rules of Conduct of Debate sections. It also proposes using Robert’s Rules of Order instead of Bourinot’s Rules of Order to align with all of the local municipalities within the County.

  A revision was also made in the document to reflect a decision County Council made at the November 15 meeting to extend the period of time to seven-days in which Council will receive an agenda prior to the date of the Council meeting. Agendas will also need to be posted on the County website six- days ahead.

  Some language has also been added to provide more clarity to the roles and duties of meeting Chairs, the Warden, Deputy Warden, Clerk, and members of Council, the Report to County Council notes.

  A change has been made regarding the appointment of lay representatives to the Essex County Library Board which would preclude the appointment of elected representatives of the local municipalities.

  During discussion on the documents, it was noted there were not any changes proposed to the calculation of County Councillor Remuneration. The current formula-based methodology of calculating County Council remuneration was developed by the Essex County Council Remuneration Advisory Committee (ECCRAC) in 2008. This Committee was comprised of seven citizens, the Report to Council notes.

  At the time of creating those calculations, County Councillors believed they spent twice as much of their time on municipal business than County business. For the Warden, the amount of time spent on County business was said to be twice the amount of time spent at the local municipalities. As a result, the ECCRAC developed the formula-based approach to calculating County Council salaries and meeting stipends.

  In the Procedure By-Law, it notes that the Warden’s base salary is calculated on the average Essex County Mayor’s base salary, multiplied by two. The Deputy Warden’s base salary is based on the average Essex County Deputy Mayor’s base salary, multiplied by 0.5. and County Councillors’ base salary is based on the average local Councillors’ base salary, multiplied by 0.5.

  Effectively, the Deputy Warden and Councillors are paid half of the average base salary of their position at the municipal level.

  The 2021 Statement of County Councillors’ Remuneration outlined each County Councillor received a base rate of $12,482.52. The Warden, who was Tecumseh Mayor, Gary McNamara, at the time who earned $87,891.72. The Deputy Warden at that time, Nelson Santos, received $19,167.86.

  Mayor Sherry Bondy moved to adopt the Procedure By-Law, with a change. She wanted to swap out the base pay for the Deputy Warden and County Council from .5 to one to come into effect in January 2024.

   That change would bring County Councillors to a full rate of the average pay of the seven municipalities.

  LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche noted in 2008 when the remuneration review was done, the County was smaller and required less work. The meetings are now longer. The County agendas, she said, are twice as long as the ones she deals with at the municipal level.

  She also wanted to discuss remunerations for alternates that fill in for the local Mayors and Deputy Mayors who cannot attend County Council meetings.

  Kingsville Mayor Dennis Rogers noted he attended 51 meetings for each the County and the Town of Kingsville last year, indicating a similar workload. He wanted to support the motion. Essex Deputy Mayor Ron Shepley agreed the workload he does for both the County and the local municipality is similar.

  Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke thought a committee should decide on the remuneration.

  Kingsville Deputy Mayor Kim DeYong could not understand the calculation of the Warden being double, but Councillors at a half.

  Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara wanted a third-party consultant to complete a review. Even then, he would not support a change until 2026.

“I think it is too self-serving at this stage,” he said.

  County CAO Sandra Zwiers suggested if Council wanted to get a third-party consultant to review remunerations that funds come from the Rate Stabilization Reserve, so there would be no burden on the tax levy. She beleived it could be done fairly quickly in consulting with the market.

  Bondy withdrew her motion, and County Council decided to defer the adoption of the Procedure By-Law, so County staff can get quotes and timelines from potential third-party consultants on creating a remuneration review of County Councillors.  

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