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City of Guelph has paid $4.6 million to fired employees over past five years

Freedom of Information request shows 44 people received an average of $104,000 in wages and benefits after being let go
20160201 Guelph City Hall Sign KA

The City of Guelph has paid out almost $4.6 million to 44 terminated employees over the past five years.

The high water mark was 2015, when 12 city employees that were let go received wages and benefits totalling $1.21 million, shows information obtained by GuelphToday through a Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“Our employees work hard and are committed to serving the citizens of Guelph, but like any large employer we sometimes find ourselves having to dismiss an employee,” said David Godwaldt, the city’s General Manager of Human Resources in response to the figures.

“Is it part of doing business? The answer to that is yes.”

The city employs 2,200 full, part-time and seasonal employees.

The last five year totals of terminated employees who received compensation (wages and benefits) is as follows:

2013: Employees: 6; Compensation: $356,419.30

2014: Employees: 9; Compensation: $902,645.54

2015: Employees: 12; Compensation: $1,207,412.10

2016: Employees: 8; Compensation: $984,826.35

2017: Employees: 9; Compensation: $1,123,332.20

The $4,574,635.49  was paid to both management and unionized employees, Godwaldt said.

There are guidelines to follow when an employee is fired.

Ontario employment legislation, city policy that governs management severance and union collective agreements all help determine what a person receives upon termination, Godwaldt said, but each situation can be different, particularly if a terminated employee gets a lawyer.

“But realizing and appreciating that employees may seek legal advice and representation and then the city would engage in legal discussions,” Godwaldt said.

Not all terminated employees receive compensation packages.

Godwaldt said when an employee is terminated with cause, “where an employee has engaged in serious wrongdoing” such as fraud, they would not receive a severance package.

Compensation packages are accounted for financially as a contingency in the annual city budget, Godwaldt said.

He did not have any information that would compare Guelph’s totals to those of similar-sized municipalities.

The total annual dollar amounts awarded by the city to terminated employees are calculated in the year the person was terminated.

For example, an employee fired in 2013 that received a package could potentially be receiving payments and benefits into the next year or even further, but the total dollar amount of that package would be listed on the books for 2013.

The information was obtained by GuelphToday via a Freedom of Information request for the total number of terminated employees and total compensation paid to them in each of the past five years.

Privacy laws prevent individuals from being identified.

The city’s Information and Access Coordinator in the clerk’s office initially told GuelphToday that an FOI would be needed in order to obtain the information requested.

After the information provided by the clerk’s office, GuelphToday was told by communications staff, who were unaware of the initial request, that the information could have been obtained without having to file an FOI.