As mentioned in Wednesday's editorial, city manager Kathleen Soltis sent an email to The Citizen last Monday, explaining the restructuring process that happened at the senior management level after she was appointed in early 2015.
At the end of the email, she wrote "I'd be happy to discuss any of this at your convenience."
Taking her at her word, this email was sent to her last Tuesday morning:
"Good morning, Kathleen.
"After reviewing the data I received yesterday, I do have a few questions and I hope you have a few minutes today to enlighten me with the background.
"I'm puzzled over how the departure of Frank Blues and your promotion warranted a wholesale restructuring of the senior management team, with new titles, responsibilities and salary grids. How was the previous senior management structure problematic? Were mayor and council part of that process? If so, to what degree and if not, why not? Were all of the newly created positions posted externally or were they just filled? Was the director of external relations position posted?
"You informed me that the salary raise in 2018 for all of senior management will be 1.5 per cent now that everyone is at the top of their salary band. However, I calculate a 3.3 per cent increase in your salary from 2016 to 2017 and a 12.4 per cent increase from your predecessor's salary in 2014 and your 2017 salary. Moving down the line, the finance director got a 6.6 per cent salary increase from 2016 to 2017, as did the general manager of public works and the director of public works while the director of external relations saw a 2.5 per cent increase in salary. Are those increases to the top of the salary bands? How does that process work? Was your increase also a result of progress to the top of the salary band? If so, did mayor and council approve that and if not, why not? Side question - why hire a consultant in 2017 to do a comparison of city manager and senior staff salaries in Prince George to other similar B.C. municipalities if there is no consistency on corporate structures between municipal governments and a comparison can't be made internally at the City of Prince George between 2017 and 2014, before the restructuring?
"Last question and it pertains to the data I received regarding City of Prince George employee overtime during the wildfire evacuation. When I match up the total list with the senior management data, I find you as employee number 17 on the list I was provided. With your overtime hours and your overtime pay, I also see you contributed 113.5 regular hours and I'm told all regular hours devoted to the wildfire have been billed to the province as well. Through the same method, I was also able to locate the other senior managers on that list and see their regular hours contributed (recognizing that the general manager of community services didn't release his information under section 22 of FOIPPA). How was the distinction between regular hours and OT hours made in terms of billing the province? Who oversaw that process for the senior managers and did mayor and council oversee that process for you, since 113.5 hours adds up to a touch more than 3 work weeks?
"I appreciate any help you can offer in terms of clarifying these questions for me."
Last Wednesday afternoon, Soltis replied by email: "Hi, Neil. Just a note to let you know that I won't be responding to your email. When I made the offer to discuss the background information I gave you on Tuesday, I didn't anticipate the nature of the questions you'd be asking about it."
That's all it said.
So not only does it seem the offer "to discuss any of this at your convenience" was insincere, she doesn't feel she even needs to answer any questions at all.
At least one city councillor sees it differently.
Coun. Brian Skakun took to Facebook on Wednesday, defending the editorials and their line of inquiry.
"I have encouraged the City to publicly clarify the position of the City regarding a number of issues Neil brought up in his editorial right from the beginning," he wrote. "To say I am not happy with a lack of our response regarding these matters is an understatement."
Skakun has been criticized, sometimes harshly, in The Citizen for various things he has said and/or done during his tenure on city council. Clearly, he can separate the individuals from the issues.
"I don't always agree with Neil or other former PG Citizen Editorial comments, but it is what it is, an editorial based on his or her opinion," he wrote. "In the case of City Admin wages and such hit a nerve and served its purpose of creating debate in the community.
"The other issue is how you respond to these types of editorials or news stories. You can either be quiet and hope it blows over or you can respond. How do I mean respond? Several options are available. You can write your own Op-Ed in the same paper stating your position and facts to support your argument. Neil and former PG Citizen Editors have always allowed this type of thing."
That is true and it also includes members of Citizen staff, such as news editor Arthur Williams, who counter-argued "city hall executives are underpaid" in Tuesday's editorial.
This space is available to Soltis, Mayor Lyn Hall or anyone else at the City of Prince George willing to answer the above questions in detail.
Just let us know.
-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout