NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
The Municipality of Wentworth is a $2 million/year business, and one married couple holds three out of the four top jobs. Mr. Kasprzyk (Mr. K) is both the Fire Chief and the Mayor. Mrs. Kasprzyk (Mrs. K) is the Director of Urbanism. (The fourth top job is the General Manager, their good friend, Paula Knudsen.)
Mr. & Mrs. K together make about $95 thousand/year. Paula makes about $85 thousand. These totals include wages, untaxed payments, pensions, sick days, insurance premiums, other benefits, extras for attending meetings, etc., but not counting overtime. These amounts appear in various places in the budget. Excluding the benefits, Mrs. K gets about $40/hour and Paula about $50/hour. Not bad for people without university degrees.
Subsequent to the last elections in November 2009, from 2010-2013 Paula has enjoyed a salary increase of over 6% per year – total 19% calculated on base wages ($70k/$59k). Mrs. K has garnered an increase of more than 11% per year – total 34% on the same basis over the 3-year period ($59k/$44k).
Most Wentworth residents are seasonal, and as a result, Summer is the busiest time of year for Wentworth employees. However, Mrs. K and Paula work only 32.5 hours per week and quit at 4 PM. They do not work weekday evenings or weekends, even though some of us would find that a more convenient time to apply for permits or transact other municipal business.
In addition to their short hours and large pay, they both get 6 weeks paid vacation per year.
It should be noted that Wentworth is next to Lachute, which according to the Montreal Gazette on September 15, 2013, is the poorest city in Quebec, with 24.6% low-income households. This means we are sitting on top of a large pool of potential workers who would be thrilled to do the same work as our employees for one-half the income.
PEEKING UNDER THE HOOD
Here’s an extract from the official Wentworth Minutes, showing how things work.
You can see that the Mayor (Mr. K) is the person who signs Paula’s contract.
In this next extract you can see Mr. K and Paula signing for Mrs. K.
Since a married couple is a legal unit, Mr. K is both boss and employee, payor and payee.
You may also have noticed in the above extract that Mrs. K is referred to as Mrs. Bennett instead of Mrs. Bennett-Kasprzyk. Whether done intentionally or not, it would be difficult to know from the Minutes that the person referred to is the Mayor’s wife, and that there may be a fundamental conflict of interest.
Here, in an earlier letter, you can see Mrs. K using her full name.
You can see here in January 2011 that Mrs. K began to get paid extra for what was formerly part of her regular job.
Since these Minutes have the force of law, one can’t help wondering about the true legal surname of Mrs. K, and if there’s an issue, exactly whose responsibility it is to make sure the Minutes conform with the law. It would have to be either Paula, Mrs. K herself, or the Mayor, Mr. K.
Apart from the financial gravy train enjoyed by this trio, there were other changes. It wouldn’t do any good if junior employees on the inside were to speak out, so in 2011 they brought in what is essentially a policy of omertà, hidden inside a Work Conditions contract.
“L’employé s’engage également à ne tenir aucun commentaire public qui puisse nuire à la municipalité. Toute déclaration ou prise de position transmise à un média d’information ou à son représentant doit être préalablement autorisée par le maire.”
“The employee also agrees not to hold any public comments that can harm the municipality. Any statement or position transmitted to news media or his representative must be authorized by the mayor. ”
In other words, if you speak out, you break the work conditions contract, and you can be fired.
It should be emphasized we’re a small municipality of about 500 families. Why is any kind of criticism forbidden? Would we rather have transparency from our employees, or do we want them to bite their tongues, and only put out info pre-approved by the Mayor?
ONE BRAVE MAN
When Marcel Harvey – the one council member brave enough to begin voting against the family business (see above) – published factual information about how the council was operating, the Mayor’s Office posted a threatening “News Release” on the front page of the Municipal website. The release quoted Mayor Kasprzyk as saying that by: “calling into question the work, competence, and integrity of municipal employees or elected officials, he is exceeding the boundaries of democratic expression“.
Read it again. Mayor Kasprzyk is using municipal resources (our tax money) to say that criticism is “exceeding the boundaries of democratic expression“.
Marcel Harvey wasn’t an employee, so he couldn’t be fired. However he was a Councillor, so Mr. K did as much as he could, and kicked him out of caucus. However the so-called “caucus” consisted of all 5 other councillors plus the Mayor. For daring to criticize what was going on, he was banished from the meetings and sent threatening lawyer’s letters by bailiff.
The Mayor’s campaign of intimidation was effective and caused severe stress in Marcel Harvey’s household – to the extent they were anxious to sell their house and escape Wentworth. He ended up having to get his own lawyer, simply to be allowed to attend the meetings.
It doesn’t cost the Mayor anything to send out as many threatening lawyers’ letters as he wants (we pay with our taxes), and if anyone has the presumption to sue him back for what he’s doing, we also pay for his defense – since the policy he introduced has a regulation for this purpose.
“la municipalité s’engage à lui procurer et à payer les services d’un avocat pour assurer sa défense … et à payer le montant ordonné par le jugement, ainsi que les frais de la cause”
When Mr. K took power the Municipal legal costs were comfortably contained within a $7,200/year annual retainer. Now, 3 short years later, our Municipality is budgeting more than triple that amount – $25,000/year for financing actions against citizens like you and me,
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The people ultimately responsible for our municipality are the Councillors we elected in the last elections in November 2009. Without a majority of them signing off on what has taken place, it couldn’t have happened. They had the responsibility, and they each received about $6 thousand per year for their role. We chose them, and they chose to support the policies.
Jay Brothers, who is a former Councillor, gave his opinion about the current group of Councillors in a comment to the Wentworth Gazette. “The mayor has a rope and the rest follow tied to the rope if someone speaks out duct tape is applied to his mouth, and his hands are tied. The motto is be quiet and cash your cheque.”
On your ballot on November 3rd, you’ll be able to vote for 6 council positions and 1 mayor. In order to figure out who should get your votes, you may want to keep in mind the names of those up for re-election who supported the current regime over the last four years – and if you want change, vote for their opponents.
You could also check in with this page, and if you feel like it, print out a copy to bring along on voting day. Finally, just because you’re reading this, it doesn’t mean other people have. Please send it to anyone else who may find it useful.
[If any elected official or employee wishes to correct or comment on this post, they're invited to do so. If no such comment or correction is received, then the contents are presumed to be a fair and true representation of these aspects of Municipal affairs in Wentworth.]