CORNER BROOK — The appointment of a secretary to serve on the local appeals board is something the current city council has wanted to address since taking office in 2009, says Mayor Neville Greeley.
The way things worked at the time was for the city clerk to act as secretary for the board which hears appeals of council decisions.
During the last public meeting of council in late May, in addition to two new appointments to the board itself, council approved the appointment of Alan Skanes as secretary. Skanes replaced city clerk Marina Redmond as secretary, effective June 1.
At Monday night’s council meeting, council passed a motion to set remuneration for the secretary position at $35 per hour. While Redmond carried out the duty as part of her salaried position and her pay will not be affected, the cost of paying a secretary is included in the City of Corner Brook’s budget allocation for the appeals board.
Greeley said council wanted to remove the city clerk from the job because there was often a conflict of allegiance when the city-employed clerk had to perform work on behalf of the appeals board, which makes decisions independent of the city.
The secretary’s duties involve notifying the board and the appellant about the appeals process and gathering all the information both sides require for the hearing of an appeal.
The mayor said there was never any situation where Redmond was in a conflict of interest that has prompted this particular decision.
“There’s been a number of challenges to decisions that council has made that directly involve the city clerk’s office and the decisions have been appealed,” said Greeley.]
“It’s not fair to the city clerk to be putting her in the position of trying to represent the city as city clerk and then take off that hat to act as the appeal board’s secretary.”
The position was publicly advertised for twice, but was not filled. The city appointed Skanes when he retired as a school administrator and also left the board of Western Sports and Entertainment, the entity which runs the Pepsi Centre on behalf of Memorial University.
The city did look into the idea of having appealed decisions heard by a regional appeals board.
However, there has been a lot of disgruntlement among the province’s municipalities about the regional appeal board system because of delays in the provincial government appointing board members and in those board’s making decisions.
“We didn’t want to get into a situation where an appeal was delayed and it was totally outside our control to do anything about it,” said Greeley.
The appointment of a secretary will be sort of like a pilot project in that this approach will be evaluated later on to see how it is working out for the city.
Greeley said the appeals board usually hears around five or six appeals per year. Board members get paid about $100 per day and most appeals are done within a few hours.
As for the secretary’s job, the mayor estimated about 10 hours of work goes into each appeal.