Farewell gift issue discussed at Committee of the Whole

Parting gifts for employees a controversial issue

Keremeos Village Council discussed employee farewell gifts and events at the September 12 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Currently, the village does not have  a policy relating to the contribution towards gifts or events for employees who are retiring and leaving the municipality.

The village treasurer, Louise Johnson, is retiring at the end of September and staff put forward a request to council for a contribution to go towards a retirement gift for her.

Staff had reviewed several other communities’ policies which provide for recognition for a staff member that is retiring or leaving  the municipality. It was determined that an amount ranging between $10  and $25 per year of service is contributed towards the purchase of a gift, the average amount being $15. Staff noted that the awards and gifts account has a balance of $7,997.30 remaining in the account for the 2011 year, and staff further concluded that a contribution of $195 from the village would be appropriate in this case.

The debate that followed the staff report was reminiscent of one that took place a couple of  months ago, when staff sought approval for expenditures incurred for a farewell get together for departing CAO Joni Heinrich.

Coucillor Manfred Bauer remained steadfast in his oppostion to providing taxpayer’s money for retirement or farewell gifts, arguing that such expenses aren’t common in the private sector.

“I don’t have a problem taking $10 or $25 out of my own pocket for something like this,” he told the rest of council.

Councillor Gary Thielmann reluctantly agreed to the aspect of paying for such expenditures out of his own pocket, feeling that the village employees deserved something for their years of dedication and service, and if necessary, he would contribute out of his own pocket.

Mayor Walter Despot felt that the proposed contribution to Mrs. Johnson’s retirement wouldn’t be fair after council recently agreed to provide $475 toward departing CAO Joni Heinrich’s farewell, after only four years of service to the community. He felt the village should be providing more.

“It’s the corporate way of doing business,”  Councillor Ed Minshull stated. “It’s a way to thank staff for the extra  work they do.”

Councillor Charlene Cowling agreed, stating that “It’s the job they do – the time spent on the job doesn’t matter.”

Councillor Bauer remained opposed to the contribution, noting that because council does not have a policy, procedure on gifting was arbitrary, and until a policy was decided upon, no village funds should be provided for departing employees gifts.

Council voted 4-1 (Bauer opposed) to provide up to $250 for a farewell gift.

Council also directed staff to bring forward a draft gift policy for council’s consideration.


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