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Nanaimo’s new operations chief discloses his employment agreement — but CAO and CFO contracts are still secret

McRae said he had no objection to making details public after city denied access saying contract was private and could harm city's financial interests
Nanaimo’s new Chief Operations Officer (COO) Brad McRae has broken the veil of secrecy that shrouds city employment contracts to publicly reveal his pay package and benefits to News Nanaimo.

After the city refused access to the agreement, the top manager told the City’s information staff he had no objections to the public knowing the details and wanted it made public.

However, the city continues to delay disclosing the same information for Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tracy Samra and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Victor Mema.

Brad McRae
Nanaimo COO Brad McRae

Starting pay of $166,601

Mr. McRae, who left tiny Lantzville where he was CAO for 13 months, is being paid a starting salary of $166,601 and qualifies for five weeks of vacation, according to his letter of appointment. That is less than the city’s current fire chief and previous general managers earned in 2015.

Mr. McRae has agreed to a maximum of six months severance if he is let go in his first year of service. In recognition of this, he is not subject to a probationary period.

According to his job description (PDF), the new COO is responsible for the city’s engineering & public works, emergency management and facilities. He is expected to be acting CAO as needed.

Mr. McRae has been given a baptism of fire by being assigned the highly contentious Colliery Dams file.

But he has wasted no time getting to work on the hot-button topic, meeting with many community stakeholders on the Dams in recent days.

City initially denied access

News Nanaimo requested Mr. McRae’s employment agreement on September 1, the day the city announced his appointment.

On September 26, the city denied the request saying it was personal information and disclosure would be harmful to city’s financial or economic interests.

mcrae_denial
The city initially denied access to Mr. McRae’s employment contract

News Nanaimo complained to the city’s FOI head Sheila Gurrie, pointing out that employment contracts have long been ruled public documents by provincial authorities.

We also contacted Mr. McRae to ask if he had any objections. He didn’t but asked that we wait until he started work in Nanaimo.

On Oct. 4, the day after he started work at the city, Mr. McRae said via email that Ms. Gurrie would soon release his employment agreement to us.

Last Wednesday, the city finally provided the documents.

Samra and Mema’s contracts delayed

Interestingly, in his Oct. 4 email, Mr. McRae also mentioned that “Ms. Samra will be, in the near future, releasing comparable information that you will receive from Ms. Gurrie.”

News Nanaimo requested Ms. Samra’s current employment agreement on Aug. 30. The city made an attempt to disregard the request on Sept. 13 under a draconian section of the freedom of information law, but later abandoned the application.

However, hopes of finally getting Ms. Samra’s contract “in the near future” as Mr. McRae said were dashed 10 days ago when the city said it was taking up to 30 additional business days to consult “a third-party.”

A request for Mr. Mema’s contract, filed by businessman and council critic Don Bonner, is also being delayed on the same grounds.

Mr. McRae’s appointment letter is embedded below:

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  • That’s refreshing news indeed Dominic!

    Someone in city management who is amenable to be transparent to the stakeholders of our fine city and truthfully disclose what we ask.

    I have met Brad McRae previous and found him to be down to earth with a no nonsense approach about him. I feel he will make decisions on his own recognizance and stand true on ethics and morals without brown nosing to a superior or council, including stakeholders OR allowing himself to be brow beaten by anyone either.

    He is an excellent choice to handle the Colliery Dams file.

  • I don’t think I can recall senior managers at the city ever revealing the terms of their employment contracts. Would have loved to know how Mr. Berry got a half million dollar handshake to retire two years early. Mr. Kenning and Mr. Swabey’s contracts have never been open to the public either. Not revealing the current CAO’s contract seems to be consistent with established policy in Nanaimo. On the matter of contacts, has the CUPE contract, ratified two years ago, ever been signed and posted on the city website yet??

    • They’ve always been public documents, but I don’t think anyone has exercised their access rights to ask, or been willing to go to the OIPC on appeal of a denial. I started doing this May 30, 2016, and so my focus is on the recent past, present and future. History is for the books and the curious.

  • He didn’t have to think about the city’s offer for very long (date on the offer and with his signature accepting same are identical)! On the subject of severance, I always thought the ‘standard’ was 1 month for each year of service yet this contract provides for 6 months severance for the first year or less (without cause). “Favourable, I should say so!!

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