What do taxpayers have the right to know, or need to know, when top brass in city positions are shown the door? In the last Burnaby NOW we published a story about the former Burnaby school district superintendent’s golden handshake.
Kevin Kaardal, the school district’s CEO for two years, stepped down suddenly at the end of January. But he will collect salary and benefits until January 2017. The grand total that Kaardal will receive by that point in time will be close to $430,000. Yes, close to a half a million dollars. The school district will not give details as to why Kaardal was let go saying only that it was a “mutual agreement”. The financial information we published was obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
There may be some irony that during a time when the school district is taking the couch cushions out looking for spare change to keep teachers and school employees on the job that it pays out a whale of a settlement to Kaardal.
And taxpayers will not be told why or how this parting of the ways between the city’s political education leaders and its top staff person actually occurred.
One can assume, at least, that the school district was the one who wanted the change, given the settlement. And one can assume that the settlement included a confidentiality agreement on Kaardal’s part, as they almost all do.
But aside from that, all we, and taxpayers, can do is speculate that the elected political leaders were not pleased with Kaardal in some form or manner.
To be sure, top employees in jobs such as Kaardal’s are in unique positions. They are expected to manage multimillion-dollar operations with huge liability issues, and they must also tip toe through a myriad of partisan and political minefields. They must balance between being “good soldiers” but also manage to speak truth to power when it has to be done. And they need to have honed some very good diplomatic skills. They are public servants, but they obey political masters. It can be a migraine-inducing job. One misstep and the next thing you know, your political bosses are having closed door meetings about you, instead of with you.
But then there’s those golden handshakes – perhaps they offer some solace to the recipient – if not the taxpayers who foot the bill.