Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Alberta Premier "The Honourable" Alison Spend Thrift: Now you see it ... blink ... now you don't!

Tories yank salary info one hour after 'sunshine' list goes online

Darcy Henton
Tuesday, Februarty 4, 2014

Stefan Baranski, Premier Alison Redford's Communications Director is eligible for an $1,800 taxpayer-paid travel allowance on top of his $13,800 monthly salary, figures on the government's newly released sunshine list showed before the information was removed an hour after it was posted. (Photograph: Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal)

EDMONTON — Alberta’s new salary disclosure list is apparently not all sunshine and light.

Some employee contract information on Alberta’s new salary disclosure list disappeared shortly after it was posted Friday, prompting opposition party members to accuse the Redford government of violating its new policy to hide embarrassing information from the public.

Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson said the government removed the 2012 contract of the premier’s Communications Director Stefan Baranski an hour after the list was posted because it revealed Baranski was provided up to $1,800 a month in taxpayer-paid air travel on top of his $13,800 monthly salary.

“How can we trust the sunshine list?” Anderson asked.

“How do we trust that we’re getting all the information out there? Every time there is something embarrassing to this government they seem to find a way to either hide it through some loophole in the legislation or, in this case, they just ignore the legislation and take it off the website.”

Baranski declined to comment, but the Premier’s Spokeswoman Neala Barton said Baranski’s contract was removed from the database because “it was posted in error.”

She said the website was only to include the most recent contracts of senior officials earning more than $100,000.

Barton noted Baranski earned below the $100,000 criteria in 2012. He wasn’t hired until August 20 and said via Twitter that he worked less than four months in that calendar year.

But neither Baranski or anybody else in government would confirm whether he billed taxpayers the $1,800 a month in airfare permitted in his contract.

Anderson said Albertans are more upset over the efforts to avoid disclosure than the dollar amounts involved.

“People would have been upset with the waste of paying a staffer to fly back and forth to Toronto . . . but what drives people crazy about this Premier, what really gets them going around the bend, is the dishonesty,” he said.

Anderson said he was also dismayed to see senior staffers in the Premier’s Office, such as Chief of Staff Farouk Adatia, a failed Progressive Conservative candidate in the last provincial election, and Adviser Lee Richardson receiving the $1,930 per month housing allowance that out-of-town MLAs receive.

Government officials declined to explain why the Premier’s office staff were entitled to the $23,160 MLA perk.

“Like any other employee who negotiates a contract, Farouk Adatia negotiated what he needed and the government offered what it was prepared to offer,” said David Sands, Director of Cross Ministry Initiatives in the province’s Public Affairs Bureau.

“If that includes a housing allowance . . . the amount that is considered compensation is disclosed on the website.”

Guy Smith, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president, said the sunshine list does put a spotlight on the high rollers in government, such as Deputy Health Minister Janet Davidson, who negotiated a salary of $577,777 that jumps to nearly $644,000 when cash benefits and allowances for professional and personal development are included.

“She is the highest paid Deputy Minister by far, and it just goes to show a corporate culture that is kind of creeping into the public service,” he said.

“These very exorbitant contracts and salaries certainly exist at the higher levels of management, yet at the same time they are forcing restraint on the front lines — the folks that actually day-in and day-out do the work for Albertans.”

Only 88 of 22,000 AUPE members made the list of 3,100 civil servants earning more than $100,000, and those at the top are highly-qualified scientists, Smith said.


Top Earners 2013 — Premier’s Office
Salary and cash benefits

Farouk Adatia $357,706
Peter Watson $342,630
Hunter Wight $238,447
Stefan Baranski $231,111
Darren Cunningham $208,433
Lee Richardson $199,835


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