Council Salaries Debated

When the subject of Council Salaries came up at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Councillors were initially not in agreement.  Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin made a motion that seemed to end discussion but was controversial.  The motion (see link below) would mean that all councillors would get a $2000 increase in the next term of Council BUT the extra amounts ($6.8K) paid to the Mayor and Councillor Burchat for their participation on the Police Board would be stopped since there is no other payment for participation on Advisory Committees. The net budget impact would be zero. But other Councillors were not happy with this idea; the previous idea of an ad hoc committee was not favoured; instead the CAO confirmed that a compensation specialist could be hired (for less than $5000) to make recommendations.

A previous Cobourg News blog post explained how the subject was on the agenda because staff were asking for direction.

During the debate, Councillor Brian Darling said that Councillors should not be on Council for the money but instead contributing to the community.

After discussion, it was clear that most councillors supported the idea of a recommendation by an independent person with expertise in the area. But Brian asked:  if the report from the specialist recommended lower salaries, would Councillors reduce them?  There was no answer to this.

One highlight was when Councillor Nicole Beatty spoke passionately about how she was NOT in it for the money.  Her concern was the community and equity. Money should not be the reason why people could not be on Council.

In the end Nicole moved the following:

THAT Council receive the Staff Report for information purposes; and

AND FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to conduct a formal review of Council remuneration for the 2022-2026 Term;

AND FURTHER THAT the formal review of Council remuneration include the engagement of a compensation specialist to be funded through the Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund and the 2022 Council (Mayors) Operating Budget to a maximum of $5,000;

AND FURTHER THAT the recommendations for Council remuneration be presented back to Committee of the Whole on June 20th, 2022.

This motion passed 5-2 with Suzanne Séguin and Brian Darling voting against.


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Cobourg taxpayer
16 March 2022 5:07 pm

Guaranteed the consultant will recommend higher salaries for Town of Cobourg councillors. But then councillors will have to take no blame for the decision on higher salaries. Passing the buck as usual.
And as far as giving staff more power, think back to Dean Hustwick, and see where that got the taxpayer: spend, spend, spend.

9 March 2022 3:12 pm

Councilor Darling seems a bit out of touch, a little too much apple pie and mothers milk. Of course individuals run for elected office in Cobourg because their care about their community (but don’t be fooled as many are padding their cv’s with hopes of a bigger fish) however from a practical perspective, there is considerable sacrifice. Taking time away from work which unless you are retired or self-employed usually isn’t free of charge. Its a difficult decision to vote for an increase for oneself but frankly I’m surprised that in the CAO or the HR department lacks the expertise to google or reach out to friends that also work in the Municipal business sphere and ask questions about compensation. Isn’t there an association for Municipalities … of course there is! Hire a student working on commerce, engineering, HR or stats – it would be done in 2 days.

Reply to  Rob
10 March 2022 10:31 pm

Did you say trusting the people who already work for the town? That’s such an absurd idea…no way the town of cobourg could possibly have a competent person on staff (*eyeroll*). If the town can’t trust their own employees for feedback then maybe they ought to reconsider their hiring practices *cough* nepotism *cough*

Reply to  curious
11 March 2022 4:02 pm

Is this comment ironic, sarcastic or just plain insulting to the Town employees? It is just a mishmash of incoherence.

Reply to  ben
11 March 2022 4:15 pm

clearly sarcasm Ben…

Reply to  curious
12 March 2022 7:44 am

Really the last four big hires were all out of town. Stop living in the past things are changing a townhall as they are now having open competition for every position not just moving people up who are qualified.

9 March 2022 9:13 am

Experience tells me that a Consultant will rarely recommend any salary decrease to a client, so, lets not go there.
In any organization Authority rarely matches Responsibility. In government, the imbalance is extreme. What that means is if a true analysis of decision-making in Cobourg was conducted, we would find our staff are probably over-paid for the few decisions they make and our Council is under-paid for the authority they assume(whether it’s well informed or not). With that said–I agree with Bryan below, that the current structure is out of balance–so lets not start giving Councilors a raise tomorrow–lets fix the problem first.
We pay our CAO almost as much as the Premier of Ontario. Don’t be scared of Council. Take some authority for your $200k; give some to your staff too and get them to make some decisions–but follow some sort of responsible governance policy when doing so. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you do?

If you are uncomfortable with that, make sure when you do present to Council, give those poor souls some options so they can think they are involved in decision-making. Thats how you manage a Board. It’s about providing them with 2 or 3 doors into the same room. Whether they pick door #1 , #2 or 3, the end result will be what you want it to be or even a better option that they may suggest.

Merle Gingrich
9 March 2022 9:06 am

I agree with Pete, Brian and Frenchy. MAKE A Decision!!

Old Sailor
9 March 2022 9:06 am

How do we attract the best candidates for Council if we are paying them volunteer type remuneration? Overseeing a $60 million dollar operating budget plus special work like a $12 million harbour restoration requires Councillors with meaningful business experience. And Councillors with a variety of professional backgrounds that support overseeing the management of a Town the size of Cobourg.

Reply to  Old Sailor
9 March 2022 9:25 am

… previously someone suggested candidates for council should have relevant experience/training and possibly be certified. Then we should pay appropriately for knowledge and contribution to an organization (just like anywhere else in life). Of course this is just another “pipe dream”….

9 March 2022 8:01 am

“AND FURTHER THAT the recommendations for Council remuneration be presented back to Committee of the Whole on June 20th, 2022.”

Hmm this will take place after nominations begin. Thus the issue will become an election issue. Council missed an opportunity to take this issue off the slate. A novice move.

Unfortunately this issue will dog the campaign and muddy the main issues. Comes down to a “vote for me and I will give myself a raise”. Big target for new candidates to smear the incumbents

Last edited 10 months ago by ben
Pete M
8 March 2022 7:05 pm

Another “punt” by council because if inability or un willingness to make decision.
Maybe we could hire a consultant to determine if the Town needs a council?
Or just hire a consultancy company that will make all o the decisions. Because doing in bulk, we should save on fees

Reply to  Pete M
8 March 2022 9:12 pm

Pete M:

A part of the issue is that Council is overwhelmed with decisions to make. Staff should be making many of them and refuses, passing them off to Council instead….porta-potties, for example.
That being said, staff have a mediocre decision making history, so it’s a catch-22 situation. The only way to learn to make good decisions is to do it: make decisions. There will be mistakes, but that’s the learning process.
The question is do staff and Council have the courage to try.

Pete M
Reply to  Bryan
9 March 2022 7:07 am

I agree with you. Our governance system is broken.
I was hoping with the new CAO that staff would be more empowered and council weaned off the micro-managing

Reply to  Pete M
12 March 2022 2:32 pm

I wonder if the CAO is also micromanaged?

Reply to  Bryan
9 March 2022 11:03 am

Sorry Pete if you haven’t been following things this council won’t let staff make decisions have you not seen the delegation authority levels or the fact that projects approved in the budget must still come to council for approval. This council is micro-management extraordinaire and if you watch council meetings from other municipalities you will see how bad it actually is.

Reply to  Concerned
9 March 2022 11:08 am

This council set the strategic plan and certain members continue to insert there own special interests on top of that and create the extra work for them and for an already overtasked staff when there are still key positions not filled in the organization.

Last edited 10 months ago by Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
9 March 2022 11:35 am

Staff do council just won’t let them!

Reply to  Concerned
9 March 2022 12:56 pm


So Council wouldn’t allow staff to deploy the porta-potties as staff saw fit? It was staff that put the item on Council’s agenda, not Council.
As noted above, Council engages in micro-management, which they should not do and is a waste of their limited resources. However, they are forced into this because staff won’t make decisions.

Much easier and safer to force Council to make the decisions, thereby avoiding responsibility and accountability. Make Council the “bad” guy when things go wrong. It is not an accident that staff have no KPIs or performance reviews.

Council, on the other hand, fosters this practice by not pushing back and directing staff to make the decisions needed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
10 March 2022 12:37 pm

Yes and hasn’t the new CAO already initiated new plans to fix these items. New HRIS system that should have a performance review system and hiring a new manager who’s duties include creating said KPIs. Stop trying to blame new staff for old pre-existing problems. People who don’t want to be part of the solution need to get out of the way and leave.

Reply to  Concerned
10 March 2022 4:11 pm


I am describing the current situation: No staff responsibility and accountability, no KPIs, no performance reviews. Nothing has change yet.

Further, staff put items on the Council meeting agenda, not council.

As I commented to you on Feb 22 regarding the EcDev mgr starting earlier:

You’re right, the oversight that exists in government does not exist in the private sector. In my experience, oversight in the private sector operates at a higher level. They have KPIs, authorization levels, performance reviews and much more. Cobourg is a $60M+ organization and has none of these.
To be fair, there is movement in a positive direction as of late, but it is painfully slow…..”

Reply to  Bryan
10 March 2022 6:39 pm

You’re really hung up on KPIs and Performance Reviews I am in an organization that has both and has for years they are one tool to assist but the don’t fix big enough issues and it will take a few years before you see them have any real impact. Yes they need them but the way you and others talk about them on here you make it sound like they alone will fix the problems. The key is the town needs to continue to find new blood and highly skilled leaders. That is the key, KPIs and performance reviews are only some of the tools that assist the leadership.

8 March 2022 6:54 pm

“if the report from the specialist recommended lower salaries, would Councillors reduce them?”
then… crickets
Hope you run again Brian, you know you’ve got the votes from this household.

Reply to  Frenchy
9 March 2022 11:06 am

Brian is one of the few that uses common sense unfortunately. There are others but there are the loud voices that make sure no one else is heard and yet no one challenges those other voices who are usually wrong in their statements or wanting consultants hired.