The City of Nanaimo has published the 2016 statement of financial information, with the earnings and expenses of city politicians and its highest-paid employees. (News Bulletin file)

City manager tops list of highest-spending employees

City of Nanaimo releases 2016 earnings and expenses of highest-paid employees

Nanaimo city hall’s top bureaucrat Tracy Samra made more than $223,000 in the first year on the job and spent more than any other city manager in the past decade, according to a recently released statement of financial information.

The City of Nanaimo has published the 2016 statement of financial information, with the earnings and expenses of city politicians and its highest-paid employees.

Of the 260 people who cracked the $75,000 threshold last year, only the ranks of top earners with the Canadian Union of Public Employees grew. The numbers of managers dropped by eight and firefighters by four. The City of Nanaimo also reports it paid two severance packages last year to non-unionized employees, representing 24 months’ compensation, but chief financial officer Victor Mema would not provide the total amount, citing the need for a freedom-of-information request.

Samra, officially announced as city manager in March last year, led the pack for remuneration. Her pay was $223,395, about 27 per cent more than the second-highest earner, Mema, who made $162,273, but it is less than Nanaimo’s most recent top bureaucrats. Former city manager Ted Swabey made more than $231,356 in his first full year as city manager and Al Kenning made $237,767 in 2013. Mema said salary levels are negotiated, when asked about the difference.

Samra also logged the highest expenses in 2016 at $21,696, though was still under her $24,300 budget.

Last year Samra had a $10,000 legal budget, which Mema said was a special arrangement by council. She spent $8,454. Other expenses included $5,118 for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators and travel and conferences for $4,961.

Prior to Samara’s expense, former city manager Jerry Berry was the biggest spender at $14,102 in 2006 and $11,628 in 2007.

Mema, however, called the comparisons of budgets of other city managers false comparisons, adding that every city manager deals with different circumstances.

“So there is no set budget that said city manager should only spend $5,000,” he said.

Expenses claimed by former top city bureaucrats don’t show legal costs, according to a spreadsheet provided by Samra, who said in an e-mail the distinction is that prior to 2016, there was no reporting of legal fees for advice specific to the city manager and that it was included in legal fees to the corporation. She called it a “good example” of more transparent reporting instituted by the chief financial officer.

“One important difference is that due to the conduct of Mayor McKay and Councillor Brennan towards my employment with the city, it was necessary to obtain legal advice for both the corporation and for the city manager,” she wrote. “In 2017, I have incurred further legal expenses as a result of the conduct of former Councillor Pratt.”

On her 2016 expenses, Samra also said she attended all the national conferences, though has elected to attend only one this year.

Karen Fry, deputy fire chief, had the second highest expenses at $13,813.

Also on the list of top earners at the City of Nanaimo is Richard Harding, director of parks, recreation and environment, who made $157,030, Craig Richardson, retired fire chief, who made $156,294 and Dale Lindsay, director of community development.

John Hankins, whose position as CEO of Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation was terminated last year, was the eighth highest earner at $143, 634.

City of Nanaimo staff top earners, 2o16:

Tracy Samra, city manager, $223,395

Victor Mema, chief financial officer, $162,273

Richard Harding, director of parks, recreation and environment, $157,031

Craig Richardson, former fire chief, $156,294

Dale Lindsay, director of community development, $151,813

Martin Drakeley, assistant fire chief, $144,547

John Van Horne, director of human resources, $144,234

John Hankins, former NEDC CEO, $143, 634

Dan Murphy, assistant fire chief, education and training, $142,435

Greg Norman, assistant fire chief, $141,463