A job posting suggests the next TransLink CEO may be offered the same $319,000 base salary as former CEO Ian Jarvis, as well as other identical benefits, including a contentious bonus that was supposed to have been scrapped.
But a TransLink spokesman said Monday the posting reflects the absolute maximum the new CEO might be paid and said the TransLink board is still refining a new executive compensation plan – with revised limits on pay – that it intends to put to the mayors’ council soon for their approval.
The July 23 posting to WorkBC on behalf of TransLink by executive search firm Boyden lists a base salary for the new CEO of $319,244 plus an annual bonus of up to 30 per cent more, as well as a pension and benefits package that includes a $14,400 transportation allowance, $2,500 annual wellness allowance, a $1,200 parking allowance and a relocation allowance, if necessary.
“The same perks. The same old benefits. The same expensive salary. The same expensive bonus system,” said Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “It’s like these guys have learned nothing from the plebiscite that people want executive pay reduced.”
Metro mayors were given final approval over executive pay levels as part of the last reform of TransLink’s legislation unveiled by Transportation Minister Todd Stone in 2014.
But that had already become a bone of contention by January of this year – before Jarvis was replaced – with mayors complaining they were permitted only to accept or reject recommendations that would come to them following an executive compensation review by a consultant, rather than simply defining the reduced pay structure they were willing to accept.
Acting board chair Barry Forbes said in a letter released today that there have been talks with some mayors’ council representatives about the forthcoming proposals, including CEO salary ranges.
“The current compensation structure for the CEO remains in place until a new plan is approved,” Forbes said, adding he looks forward to presenting the recommendations to the mayors at a date of their choosing.
“Under provincial legislation, this plan must be approved by the mayors’ council.”
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said he was “stunned” to see the pay offer in the posting and did not see how TransLink’s board could offer any specific salary to a prospective CEO when they don’t know if it will be vetoed by the mayors.
“To me it’s a huge mistake and it’s outrageous,” Baldwin said. “It seems like they’re setting themselves up for a huge confrontation with the mayors’ council.”
Baldwin said he feared the TransLink board may hire a new CEO before any new executive compensation limits are approved so the new position is grandfathered in and not subject to any reduction.
He said he doesn’t believe other mayors would approve anything other than a cut from current executive pay levels.
“I’m not sure how this is going to play out,” Baldwin said. “This is the province’s doing. They set it up. They should have thought of this.”
The provisions for an annual bonus of up to 30 per cent are the same as for Jarvis, but in practice he never received more than 18.5 per cent extra.
Both Moore and Bateman believed TransLink had agreed to scrap executive bonuses three years ago and questioned why they were included in the posting.
“That raises question marks to me on what they’ve done versus what they’ve presented there (in the posting),” Moore said.
A previously imposed ban by the province on the payment of bonuses within government or in Crown corporations exempted TransLink and BC Ferries, and while TransLink eliminated short-term bonuses for other executives, it continued paying long-term bonuses to Jarvis.
“If we’re replacing executives including the top job and we’re going to put them in place under the old compensation scheme, that doesn’t make any sense,” Bateman said.
“There’s an opportunity here with so many empty slots in the executive suite, we could actually rejig the compensation structure in one fell swoop. It concerns me that the TransLink board’s going to fritter that away.”
North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto said it’s “bizarre” that mayors are expected to sign off on compensation but have no say on the choice of the CEO.
Minister Stone has not committed to any governance reform at TransLink, and has instead stressed the importance of recruiting the right new CEO.
The minister said in an emailed statement he expects the compensation paid to the next CEO to be “significantly less” than before and urged TransLink’s board to adopt provincial guidelines on bonus payments.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who sits on the TransLink board as a vice-chair of the mayors’ council, declined to comment, referring questions to Forbes.
According to the Boyden posting, the successful candidate has a demonstrated ability to lead complex organizations, work with boards and stakeholders, preferably with a bachelor’s degree in business administration or engineering, and a minimum five to 10 years of related leadership experience.
“With your excellent communications and media relations skills, you are also adept at shaping public opinion and rallying support,” it says. “This is a rare opportunity to provide strategic leadership for transportation to Canada’s third largest urban region and shape regional growth through transit in a world class city.”
The posting also notes that Vancouver stands alone with only London and Paris as major cities where public transit and road planning are integrated under one authority with its own revenue streams.
It notes TransLink oversees $8.1 billion in assets, with 6,700 employees serving 2.3 million people.
“It needs to be a competitive salary,” Moore said, adding the challenge with comparing TransLink to other transit authorities is there is nothing similar in North America.
“The No side in the plebiscite wanted to compare the CEO of TransLink to one of nine CEOs in Seattle or one of eight CEOs in Toronto,” Moore said, referring to areas where multiple separate agencies do the work of TransLink. “Nobody else has an integrated rail-bus-road infrastructure.”
When Jarvis was removed as CEO in February but kept on at the same pay as a consultant to avoid a big severance payout, interim CEO Doug Allen took over for six months at pay of $35,000 a month.
Allen leaves in August and the CEO duties will be taken up on an interim basis by chief financial officer Cathy McLay, whose base salary is $296,866.
That’s another potential difficulty, Baldwin said, noting that if the new CEO is paid less than the CFO, she could be forced out at the cost of another expensive buyout.
“I can’t see a CEO wanting to have someone reporting to them earning more money.”