Frances Bula header image 2

The story about the CFO’s salary: good journalism or bad?

April 23rd, 2009 · 12 Comments

The debate over the contract terms of the city’s new chief financial officer was quite lively here, so I’m sure you’ll all be interested in Chapter 2. Allen Garr has an analysis of why one element of this story in particular showed the kind of bad reporting that bloggers with an agenda and the media who love them are vulnerable to. And here’s the response from the bloggers.

With a sigh of resignation, as I know this will invite yet another lengthy and vitriolic attack against me by the citycaucus guys, Allen raises some valid points. The decision to give Patrice Impey 10 weeks of vacation, on top of her $230,000-something salary, is clearly an interesting one, since that vacation is essentially a way of topping up her salary past the pay scale currently set for her position.

But to go around saying that she got anything beyond the vacation time by being brought in as a 20-year employee is wrong, as far as I can tell. She did not magically get 20 years worth of employer pension contributions deposited into her account. And all employees get the same medical and dental and whatever benefits, from the day they start work.

There is no increase in benefits depending on your years of service, unless the city has some kind of radically different arrangement with its employees than any other company I know of. And the only time seniority generally matters in other ways — and I know this from the union jobs I’ve had at the Vancouver Sun and elsewhere — is in your ability to get preferred shifts, schedule vacation time, or avoid layoffs. That’s not something that applies to non-union staff and senior managers, like a CFO.

In closing, I’d like to note that Allen is an equal-opportunity curmudgeon about all media and the way they cover stories and has been for years. His succinct email to me yesterday morning, “played like a fiddle,” let me know what he thought of the fact that both my story in the Globe and Miro Cernetig’s story in the Sun claimed that we had exclusive information about the mayors’ planned call for carbon-tax revenues to support transit. It’s one of dozens of emails or voicemails I’ve had from him over the years, as he critiques the journalism he sees around him. If you go back, you can see many other columns he’s written over the years taking the media to task for sloppy reporting.

It’s a shame that no one is allowed to voice a criticism of citycaucus’s efforts without being accused of being a shill for the People They Hate and Are Working Flat-Out to Discredit. If they think there are factual errors or overlooked facts in what Allen is saying (or what I’ve written here), let’s hear them. But how about not making stuff up about what you imagine his motives or brain-washing experiences are.

Whatever else you might think of Allen as a writer, he’s been an energetic and, as I said, equal-opportunity curmudgeon journalist all his life. Of all the people I know in this business, he is the least amenable to cozying up to any administration or source. He doesn’t like getting too friendly with political types. Instead, he keeps his distance and takes his potshots from there.

Okay, go after me now. I’m going for a swim to get my endorphins up as a shield against the name-calling to come.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Dawn Steele

    Great reporting by Allen Garr once again – he’s long been on my list of must-reads.

    Journalists need to treat political bloggers with as much caution as they treat party flacks – perhaps more, since the bloggers don’t have any direct public accountability. Which is not to say that they can’t play a useful role.

    Bloggers like citycaucus who aspire to be taken seriously as citizen journalists need to remember that they are subject to the rules regarding public credibility as mainstream journalism – respect is hard to earn, very easy to lose, and once lost, almost impossible to regain. Screaming won’t change a thing once you’ve burnt your cred – it just takes you down faster and harder.

  • Chris

    Does anyone read citycaucus anymore? The blog had a lot of promise when it started, but has turned into such a joke I can’t stand to read it anymore.

  • Sam Sullivan

    Citycaucus is two NPA hacks, one who is the former hack for Sam Sullivan, who just have sour grapes and still think they’re in the election. Has anyone asked them if they’re still using Sam Sullivan’s fundraising money to run their blog? It takes money to run a professional blog, someone should be looking at who’s really paying for citycaucus….

  • Larry McLaren

    I completely second your appraisal of Allen Garr Frances.
    City Caucus is currently playing that classic broken record, “We’re Little Guyz like Youz” from the Neo Cons.
    You know it. It’s the only album they’ve released since the 80’s and includes, “Lets Play Victim”, the prescient and eminently identifiable, “Dey Hate Us Bloggers – And That Means You”, and the all time classic, “Fuk Da Factz, Slur Da Messenja”.

    FYI: Most people don’t know that the sound at the end of the album is their credibility being flushed down a toilet.

  • SV

    I have to second what Chris said above. While I don’t agreee with citycaucus I was looking to forward to having access to an alternate viewpoint on municipal politics. Sadly that seems to have gone out the window-as the site now seems set to argue the opposite of whatever the mayor and council choose to do. Worse there is an exaggerated tone of hysteria to most of the posts. And while they love to trumpet the number of page views the site receives I think the number of comments left on the site indicate that not many people take it very seriously.

  • spartikus

    They continue to double down on their error. From their “rebuttal”:

    As for the 10 weeks of paid vacation, or the extra $45,000 tacked onto Impey’s gold-plated deal, Garr tries to make excuses for it. The public sector math is simple:

    5 weeks vacation + 3 weeks EDO + 1 week OT + 1 extra week vacation = 10 weeks

    EDO (Earned Days Off) are not vacation. It is not a benefit. The employee works longer hours in return for days off. The employer gets the same number of hours of work out of them.

    Given they worked for the City (and presumably got EDOs themselves), they should know this.

  • Travis

    Just for fun I just took a look at the comments on’s post. Of the 8 that are on there, 3 are supportive, 3 are quite critical and the other 2 are rebuttals from Mr. Klassen to the critiques.

    This is my favorite: “I guess the best defense is a good offense. Rather than admitting you are wrong, keep on striking out and maybe one day you will hit something.” Ouch!

    I am amazed at how the mainstream media in Vancouver has so many fingers on the pulse of this blog because they fluctuate wildly between conducting themselves as real journalists and highly opinionated bloggers.

    I think that they should rebrand themselves as “”. It would remove the lingering remnants of their credibility.

  • LP

    I haven’t been real impressed with them from the start and consequently I do not visit their site. And that’s coming from a soft-c (I hate the term red-tory).

    Travis’s comment where he states, “..It would remove the lingering remnants of their credibility.”, makes me ask the question; Why has anyone believed they are trying to be fair or balanced in the first place?

    The media is full of left-wing (the tyee), and right-wing (these guys) rhetoric. There’s nothing wrong with that as most people see it for what it is, and people do have the right to pick and choose what they read, and what they believe.

    I also believe that most would accuse the cbc, Globe, CTV, Canwest, etc.. of certain bias as well. My friends in Winnipeg were part of the same circle as Izzy Asper was when alive, and he was as Fed-Lib as they get. It’s no surprise his media outlets before his death were equally biased.

    I’m not making excuses for these citycaucus guys but at least they’re transparent in their bias, whereas the list of media that masquerades as “balanced” are in my opinion, far worse than these guys can ever be.

    I think you only have yourselves to blame if you thought they were going to be fair and/or balanced.

  • Wayne

    I followed Citycaucus when you first brought it to our attention Frances. I stopped following it shortly thereafter.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    I appreciate Allen’s analysis, I always do.

    But the terms are just too rich on a general scale. I’m sorry, it’s a fact. You could work for years in the private sector and never receive such lucrative compensation, or you could work for a few years and receive far in excess. It just depends on who you work for, so a “like” comparison with the private sector is hardly that at all.

    As for…I am happy to admit when I am wrong, I was duped on the details, like so many others. I accept, after reading Allen’s column that the details were not what was originally reported, and we really should have known better–despite the fact that the package, sorry again, really seems just too much. I’ve worked at that level before, and beyond it. You never start off with such a package regardless of where you came from. Even in the private sector, it’s a tough sell to the board of directors. So, even though we were passed misinformation, in principle, I think there is something very wrong when you begin at such a level as CFO for the city. The support staff is not so diffuse that you need such luxury. Prove your worth. It’s the taxpayers’ buck after all.

    People, I suppose, are looking for results and in this day when there are so many in the same league that are at home changing diapers or tending to their garden while waiting for the phone to break the silence of their existence, it’s a tough swallow.

    On the issue of, maybe they can answer the same questions I’ve asked before:

    Are the rumours true? Are they being funded by the left overs from the Sam slush fund? Has Mikey hooked Sam up with provincial Liberal MLAs who Sam is dispensing political “advice” to…to ingratiate himself, in the hope of skipping the boredom of re-reading Plato while staring through the looking glass into the harbour?

    Their credibility was never really in question, they never had any. A nice blog skin doesn’t make for the brilliant story or pertinent website.

    I’ve counted only a few stories they’ve done, thus far, that were done without malice and with some integrity, otherwise, these are two guys with zero credibility after being BLIND apologists for the worst modern day mayor in Vancouver history, and taking patronage appointments to boot. As much as I despise the damage Colin Metcalfe has done to the local Tories, he would have been a superb Chief for Sam, tempered by the necessity of dealing with Silly Hall, and Sam would have never been so off his rocker on so many issues. Danny was the worst choice Sam could have made and Mikey had no previous credentials for the Planning Commission–none. “I’ve always been interested in architecture” was what he told me, verbatim, when I confronted him about it years ago. And from all accounts, his learning curve on the commission was a painful spectacle for a majority.

  • Antoine

    The 20 year employee status may well have an impact on severance. In a common law (i.e. non-union environment) dismissal without cause will generally attract one month notice or pay in lieu for each year of service . Thus our new CFO will have 20 years and counting of service should things not work out and this could attract big severance dollars

  • carolyn

    i think the city of vancouver just got a much more qualified person than they would have otherwise been able to attract by filling in with some benes. Its a creative solution and a win win one at that.

    Her resume and experience are incredible – with an international bent too boot, which will serve our fair coastal city well in the coming booming global economy – which may well require a greater focus on international trade.