With just 20-or-so hours to go, Perth Town Council just made it under the wire to deliver a severance deal with its uniformed police officers and civilian staffers.
While the handshake sealing the deal was made on Friday, Nov. 30, the Perth Police Service association membership voted unanimously to endorse the deal on Sunday, Dec. 2.
The race was then on to get it passed by town council at the committee-of-the-whole meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. After discussing the matter in camera at the start of the meeting, the deal was passed that evening.
Perth Mayor John Fenik told council that “it is with a great deal of pleasure (that we announce that) we have reached an agreement with the uniform and civilian members of our police force on a severance package.”
Normally, there is a “cooling off period,” after a motion is passed at committee-of-the-whole, before a matter goes before town council, but council voted to suspend the rules since Fenik stated that time was of the essence, with the OCOPS (Ontario Civilian Police Commission) section 40 meeting at 4 p.m. the next day, Wednesday, Dec. 5. The Perth police services board had signed off on the deal at its own special meeting earlier in the day.
Just after 8 p.m., during the special council meeting, the severance deal was passed, thereby meeting one of the two criteria set down by provincial law for the disbanding of a police department.
Fenik praised the deal, stating that “the best agreement is a negotiated one. We didn’t want this arbitrated by someone in Toronto.”
The payouts will total anywhere from $372,000, which will take about six months to recoup from the anticipated savings from going over to the Ontario Provincial Police, and $950,000, which could take up to a year-and-a-half to recoup.
“That (payment amount) all depends o where people go and settle down,” said Fenik, with some employees still deciding on their futures, and if those futures include the OPP. “It was the best agreement that we collaboratively reached. It was, indeed, bittersweet.”
Even the most vocal anti-merger councillor on council, Jim Graff, commended the mayor for a good deal.
“The staff will be well compensated, and there was a great deal of care taken to look after the employees,” said Graff. “(But) I, in all good conscience, cannot support this motion because it is about the whole process which I do not support.”
Both Fenik and Deputy Mayor John Gemmell sit on the police services board, and Gemmell defended the whole process.
“I have no reservations,” said Gemmell. “We did do our due diligence. We will move forward.”
Coun. Ed McPherson was grateful that the deal did not have to be arbitrated, from a financial point of view.
“The (police) association came forward looking for a lot more than we could afford,” said McPherson. “This would cost taxpayers more if we had to go to arbitration.”
NO DEAL FOR CAPELLO
A severance deal between the Town of Perth and outgoing Perth Police Service chief Pat Capello however appears headed for arbitration.
“That issue, in terms of the chief of police, Pat Capello, is still outstanding,” said Fenik during his presentation to OCOPS at the Best Western Plus hotel in Perth on Wednesday, Dec. 5. “We will be looking for an arbitrated decision on that.”
Stephanie Grey, chair of the Perth police services board agreed that “at this time, we have not reached a deal with him,” and that, if a deal had not been reached within the next 30 to 60 days, it would go to arbitration.
“We are continuing our discussions with my contract,” said Capello at the OCOPS meeting.