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PHS top executives made up to $186,000 a year, deserved it because they worked so hard, said board chair

March 20th, 2014 · 56 Comments

There’s so much to ponder in the audit reports on PHS Community Services, but one paragraph that stood out for me was the response from board members when asked if they knew and approved of the fact that the top five managers were making far more than their contracts stipulated.

The salaries for those five (Mark Townsend, Liz Evans, Dan Small, Kerstin Steuzbecher, and Tom Laviolette) were so high because they not only got their salaries as stipulated in their employment agreements, but some of them would get paid a “vacation payout” of up to $20,000 since they were always on call during their regular vacations, along with extra pay for working statutory holidays. As well, they had extra money thrown in for RRSPs, childcare, and other benefits. As a result, actual T4s from 2010 to 2012 for those top managers ranged from $104,000 to $186,000 a year.

The responses of board members when asked about that were, from chair Jack Bibby:  “I’ve never met 5 people who work harder in my entire life. No doesn’t cause me concern. I know how hard they work.” And from another board member, Cordell Drayers: “I knew they had the potential for these things but not the actual amount. I’m with Jack — no concerns.”

Those comments are at the heart of what is going on here. The people working at PHS and the board members all felt like they were doing a hard, hard job. And they were. I’d listened to stories about PHS over the years and you couldn’t have paid me any money to do that work. Staff were sometimes jabbed with needles and had to wait for a few weeks to find out if they’d been infected with AIDS or Hep C. Liz once had a psychotic patient grab her neck chain and try to strangle her. They felt like they were doing battle against the world. And so they deserved perks, after lots of long years in the trenches where they didn’t get many. (And, to be fair, they didn’t restrict the perks to themselves. Staff got spa treats; residents got presents of clothing and tickets; etc etc etc)

But a lot of what we see here came from the mentality of, “We’re doing a really tough job. We deserve the pay.” And they were surrounded by others who agreed with them. Not that different from how a lot of people in top government and corporate jobs think. But it’s not what people expect of those who do the kind of work they were doing.

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