Firing CAO cost town nearly six figures; report

by Tristan Turner

Interim CAO Andrew Isbister reported to Town Council that terminating the employment of former CAO Debbie Oyarzun resulted in paying out nearly six figures worth of severance pay.

The report followed an information request from Councillor Stephen Dafoe at a previous Council meeting.

The report indicates severance was equal to the value of six months worth of Oyarzun’s wages and benefits, pointing to Oyarzun’s previous annual salary being approximately $140,000 annually, before benefits.

The total cost of termination cost, including $4,913 in legal fees and accrued holiday pay was $87,656.

Oyarzun’s employment was officially terminated by Town Council Jan. 26. The termination was without cause, a legal term for one of the forms of employment termination. The other form of termination is with cause.

The region has seen similar situations in other municipalities that has generated some controversy, including Edmonton Council’s recent decision to terminate the position of former City Manager Simon Farbrother at a cost to taxpayers of $800,000 in severance.

It is common practice to pay severance when terminating the employment of employees working in Municipal Administration.

The information report was received with no comment from Council.

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  1. Since she was fired, there were obvious reasons behind it. Proper documentation should have been enough to fire with reason and thus no severance package.

  2. What was the cause for firing ??? Why the hell are my property tax being spent in such incompetence????

  3. At the current rate, which won’t stay current for long, this is almost 23 years of my property tax dollars at work. The danger when one is working with public funds is that you are writing a cheque that someone else will have to pay for, which can diminish the true personal impact of your decision. When my wife and I do something that costs a lot of money, we have to weigh our future incomes against the value of the decision, and we’re still a bit nervous just because it’s a lot of money. I know personally many of the Council members and believe that, in their hearts and minds, they have done just that. However, there will be a lot of explaining ahead as to why other means, such as mediation, weren’t tried openly before going to termination without cause. From the outside looking in, it seems like getting a divorce without having tried marriage counselling, which would be very easy to do if someone else is paying for it. I hope we see a massive improvement in the Town’s administration and our Council is hugely more effective because of this unplanned expenditure.

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