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Moving expenses questioned

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton will be asking city council to reanalyze a policy which allows the city’s human resources department to use taxpayers money to pay for the moving expenses of new employees.

The practice cost the city $6,500 last year, $18,600 in 2009 and $67,300 in 2008.

“I have not agreed with these outlandish moving expenses in the past,” said the mayor and former councillor. “I did not see it being done in my private business life. I didn’t belong to a huge corporation. I belonged to mom-and-pop stores where when help came in, you were not buying from somewhere else and using (moving expenses) as an incentive.”

Ashton said he thinks an effort should be made to see if a selected candidate is willing to come to Penticton to work even if a request for a moving allowance is not met. If someone does not want to move here to take a job then so be it, he said, hire the next qualified candidate.

However, Ashton did recognize that sometimes there is no next qualified candidate.

“You do not want to forsake bringing in a good employee,” he said. “There was a time when that was required, when the economy was screaming and that was one of the incentives to get people to come here when they asked for it.

“That is why it needs to be done sometimes by the HR person, but flowing up to the CAO.”

However, Ashton said, times have changed and the economy and job market are not what they once were.

“I will be asking council to re-evaluate our expenses that are advanced to bring in new employees,” he said.

Ashton will likely find some support for the review from both Coun. Mike Pearce — who attempted to have $25,000 cut from a human resources budget already slated to be reduced by over $200,000 in 2011 — and Coun. John Vassilaki.

“We should not be financing them coming here for an interview or to move their families here,” said Vassilaki. “They don’t do it in private enterprise. I mean very rarely is it ever done. It is only done in government circles because unfortunately the money is not ours and we are spending other people’s money and we look at it differently.”

According to the city’s human resources manager Gillian Kenny, only one new employee, filling in a senior level management position, received a moving allowance in 2010.

Due to privacy laws Kenny could not disclose who it was — city CAO Annette Antoniak said it was not her — however, Kenny said the person was the best of eight candidates for the position, all of whom were qualified enough to be interviewed.

The $6,500 moving allowance was not offered to the candidate at the time he or she was selected for the position, said Kenny, and was only approved after a request. Asked whether she knew if the candidate would not have come if she had not approved the moving allowance, Kenny responded, “The candidate expressed concern.”

city@pentictonwesternnews.com

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