Salary Continued After Leaving Government Job

Advanced education minister received wages for 11 months after she departed the Representative for Children and Youth and ran for NDP.

By Andrew MacLeod 4 Oct 2017 | The Ubyssey

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Update, Oct. 4, 2017, 5:09 p.m.: The BC Liberal opposition asked several questions Wednesday in the B.C. legislature about Melanie Mark’s departure from the office of the representative for children and youth. “I was responsible for the advocacy program provincially,” Mark said. “In 2013, the mandate of the representative's office changed when they included advocacy for young adults, to advocate for young people receiving services from Community Living B.C. In that time, there was a massive change of the organization, which triggered a corporate restructuring. As part of the corporate restructuring, my position was eliminated in 2015, and I received severance.”

Melanie Mark, now British Columbia’s minister of advanced education, continued to be paid by the province’s office of the Representative for Children and Youth for 11 months after she left to run for the NDP in a byelection.

Mark finished at the independent office, then headed by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, in March 2015, but the province’s public accounts show she was paid $105,791 between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016 as the ADR, or advocacy for the representative’s office.

“It’s curious to hear and a little concerning, but there may be a good explanation,” Stephanie Cadieux, the advanced education critic for the BC Liberal opposition, said last week. Cadieux was the minister of children and family development in the previous government.

“My understanding was she left her job voluntarily to pursue other things,” she said.

The public service’s policy, which covers the Representative for Children and Youth, is that employees who resign are not entitled to severance. The only employees entitled to severance are those terminated without cause.

Asked Tuesday why the payments continued after she left the representative’s office, Mark said, “I think that’s a question for the Representative for Children and Youth. It’s an independent office of the legislature. They were my employer so I would leave the question to them.”

Mark first won election in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant in a Feb. 2, 2016 byelection and was re-elected in the 2017 general election.

At the time of the byelection, Turpel-Lafond said, “Melanie left the representative’s office in March 2015 to pursue other job opportunities.”

Turpel-Lafond said she was happy with the work Mark had done and that Mark had left the office by choice. “I had the great pleasure of working with her for over eight years,” she said. “Public service policy in her personnel file is private... I can just say she chose to leave to work on new opportunities.”

A spokesperson for the government caucus provided a different explanation Tuesday afternoon. “An independent consultant recommended a significant restructuring of the senior executive of the representative’s office and as part of that restructuring, [Mark’s] position was eliminated,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Mark disclosed the earnings to the conflict of interest commissioner after she became an MLA, the statement from the government caucus spokesperson said. “Upon being elected as an MLA, she proactively asked the representative’s office to cease payments.”

A spokesperson for the office of the RCY confirmed in an email that there had been a restructuring of the office and the position Mark was in no longer exists. “The ADR Advocacy position has been eliminated at RCY. We have not had an ADR Advocacy since the end of March 2015.... That program area is now headed by an executive director rather than an ADR.”

The spokesperson for the RCY office said, “This amount, $105,791, reflects salary paid to Melanie Mark by RCY during the 2015/16 fiscal year.”

Cadieux said last week she believed there had been an acting deputy representative for half a year after Mark left. “Given that it’s taxpayer dollars that fund the office of the representative, it would be nice to understand what happened there,” she said.

Note: Story updated on Oct. 4, 2017 at 10:19 a.m.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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