Trustees call for end to double-dipping in district

Concern about retired administrators “double-dipping” has caused two Okanagan Skaha School Board trustees to bring forward a notice of motion seeking to prohibit the practice in the future.

Concern about retired administrators “double-dipping” has caused two Okanagan Skaha School Board trustees to bring forward a notice of motion seeking to prohibit the practice in the future.

Double-dipping, as trustees David Perry and Tom Siddon define it, is the practice of allowing senior officials to retire to a full pension and then to be hired back under contract to the same or a similar position.

At Monday’s board meeting, Perry and Siddon tabled a notice of motion that the school district amend their fiscal control policy to “expressly disallow” any retiree from the senior administrative staff to be hired back unless their full retirement pension is declined during their time under contract to the district.

Perry said he is concerned about the tendency of officials who have retired from their position to slip back into their old jobs, sometimes at a higher rate of pay, receiving money from the public purse while also receiving their government pension.

While there are no retired administrators currently under contract to the district, the situation has occurred in the past. Dave Stigant, formerly an assistant superintendent with Okanagan Skaha, was hired to help with union contract negotiations in spring 2011. As well, the district retained the services of school superintendent Gary Doi after his first retirement, rehiring him on a short-term contract to continue his administrative duties, which he fulfilled until 2009.

However, since retirement, both men have established themselves as sought after education consultants, working for school districts throughout the province. As well, Doi has gone on to found the website ahopefulsign.com.

“They pay into their pension, it’s an earned benefit,” said board chair Ginny Manning, adding that the money they receive for their pension does not come out of the district’s operating budget.

The practice of utilizing the expertise of retired employees occurs in every economic sector, said Manning, pointing out that retirees often go into consulting.

While Perry would not speak about Doi’s expertise directly, he said the argument of making use of valuable abilities and knowledge was misleading.

“There are always other people out there that have equal or better skills,” said Perry. “To say there is no one out there is a misconception.”

Perry did speak out against the hiring of Stigant in the spring, citing the double dipping issue, but said he decided to bring the issue forward again now to ensure that if he wasn’t elected again, future boards would be prohibited from the practice.

“In circumstances like this, it is simply unacceptable for the current employee to simply slide back into their old position after taking the required two months off,” said Perry.

“This practise is offensive not only to the general taxpayer, but also to students, teachers and their parents who must contend with a continuing decline of funding for public education,” according to Perry and Siddon’s notice of motion.

While a notice of motion is a bit unusual at the school board table, Perry said he wanted to be fair to other members of the board and not spring it on them, without giving them time to examine the issue and muster their own arguments.

“Some members said they were taken by surprise, but that was the opposite of my intentions,” said Perry.

The motion will be tabled for discussion and voting at the Nov. 14 board meeting, just a few days before the municipal election.

“I think there will be support around the table,” said Perry, adding that it would have been unfair to poll the other board members at Monday’s meeting, since they had just learned that he and Siddon planned to make this a policy issue.

“The trustees are intelligent people, we’ll figure it out,” said Manning.