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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.

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