October 11, 2013 10:22 am
Updated: October 11, 2013 8:22 pm

Former Redford Chief of Staff admits to six-figure severance for six months work

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EDMONTON- Premier Alison Redford’s former Chief of Staff, Stephen Carter, tweeted Friday morning he received $130,000 in severance for his six months as Chief of Staff.

On Thursday, Premier Redford said she had instructed the Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation to change the government’s policy when it comes to salary disclosure.

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The move came one day after Global News revealed the government refused to release information about Carter’s severance, despite requests to the Executive Council, a formal Access to Information (FOIP) request, and a review by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Global News filed an access to information request for Stephen Carter’s severance amount more than one year ago. Carter was Redford’s chief of staff for about six months, before being replaced in April 2012.

Watch: Vassy Kapelos reports on Redford’s call for change:

After initially refusing to release the information, and much backlash by members of the opposition, Redford said Thursday evening while she can’t interfere with FOIP process and release the severance information, the government will take steps to change the salary disclosure policy.

“Today, questions are being raised around employment and severance contracts for current and previous government employees. Let me be perfectly clear. These contracts are covered under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) law, and no politician is involved in decisions on their release, including me. Anyone who suggests otherwise is flat-out misleading Albertans,” Redford said in an emailed statement.

“I have instructed Don Scott, the Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation, to put a policy in place that expands the proactive disclosure of salary and severance information for senior government employees to replace the current disclosure in the Government of Alberta’s annual report. It is my intention that this disclosure would be retroactive to the day this government was sworn in.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is praising the government’s proposed salary and severance disclosure policy.

“The CTF has campaigned for a government ‘sunshine list’ for years and this was a priority objective for our organization in 2013,” said CTF Alberta director, Derek Fildebrandt, in a news release. “A ‘sunshine list’ of government employee salaries, pensions, severance and other compensation will bring greater accountability to government and provide a valuable source of data when examining government employee compensation on a macro level.”

Fildebrandt says he spoke to Associate Minister Scott shortly after the government announcement.

“We told Associate Minister Scott that we would like Alberta to have the gold-standard Sunshine law in the country, much like they now have with expense disclosure,” said Fildebrandt.

The CTF would like to see a breakdown of the global compensation – much like how MLA salaries are disclosed – not just salaries listed or a global number listed for total compensation.  It would like the disclosure policy include the salary, any bonuses, severance payments and government contributions towards health and pension benefits.

Meanwhile, opposition members say a $130,000 severance for voluntarily leaving a position Carter held for only six months is simply outrageous.

“If it’s complete, if that’s the full amount, it’s still pretty eye-popping. Six months severance for six months worth of work, an employee who voluntarily leaves should not get severance at all,” said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.

“I tell you, the optics on this are terrible. And if that’s the practice in the premier’s office, no wonder we’ve got problems with out of control executive bonuses and salaries.”

“It’s the same old Tory story that the insiders and friends get special treatment and the rest of us get cutbacks and privatization of our essential services,” NDP Leader Brian Mason added.

Both Smith and Mason say Carter tweeting the information changes nothing. They’re calling on the Executive Council to release the formal documents as instructed by Privacy Commissioner’s office.

“She still has a responsibility to comply with a direction of the Information Privacy Commissioner’s office and release the information and release the full information,” Mason said. “It really raises the question why they’re trying to keep it a secret and why they’re ignoring the information and Privacy Commissioner.”

“It’s quite clear that her former staff member has no problem releasing the details. So we think the premier should release the full details of all of the payments to, not only to her chief of staff, but also to all the other employees who left the premier’s office in the last year,” Smith said.

University of Alberta Political Scientist Ian Urquhart compared Carter’s payout to the one Nigel Wright received. Wright was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff who stepped aside amidst the Mike Duffy scandal. Wright received two weeks worth of salary for every year he worked. If Alberta used that formula, Urquhart says Carter would have received $5,100 dollars.

“Will some people questions the Carter severance? Given its amount, I think that some members of the party will question it,” Urquhart added.

In the past, the government has had to disclose severance. Back in 2007, the Office of the Commissioner ruled the government had to release the severances of former chief of staff to Ralph Klein, Rod Love, and Alberta’s representative in Washington, Murray Smith.

Redford says she expects the work to be complete by December 31, 2013.

With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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