Dufferin News Municipal Politics

Melancthon Councilmembers Asked to Rethink Pay Raise

Melancthon Councilmembers asked to reconsider pay raise

“I don’t know how the media found out”, proclaimed one of the Melancthon councilmembers, Margaret Mercer.

The topic of the council wage increase came up at the November 19th meeting of Melancthon council as a result of former Councillor David Thwaites’s letter to council asking them to reconsider the matter, ‘in view of recent events and comments as reported in the local press’. He also reiterated that he believes council voting on their own pay is a conflict of interest. Melancthon resident and frequent attendee of the township’s council meetings, Bill Neilson, made a similar ask.

At the October 15th Melancthon Council Meeting, Councillor Margaret Mercer brought a motion before council that would increase the pay of councillors from $10,891.15 to $12,891.15. The deputy mayor’s wage would go from $12,078.98 to $16,078.98, and the mayor’s from $17,425.61 to $18,625.61. This would be implemented during the current term. This motion was moved by Councillor Mercer and seconded by Councillor Wayne Hannon. They both, along with Deputy Mayor Dave Besley, voted in favour. Mayor Darren White and David Thwaites, who sent in his letter resigning from council on November 6th, voted against the motion. 

Josh MacEwen of Dufferin News was informed of the possibility of a wage increase for Melancthon councilmembers after reading the agenda for the October 15th council meeting, after it had occurred. The Township of Melancthon does not have audio or video recordings of its council meetings available at this time. On October 20th, Dufferin News attempted to obtain the draft minutes from this meeting to see the outcome of the vote, but that was not possible. The minutes for the October 15th meeting were made available to the public after being approved by council at the November 5th meeting. These documents displayed who voted for and against the motion, and Melancthon councilmembers were then contacted for comment on November 6th. All but Deputy Mayor David Besley responded.

Mayor Darren White explained to Councillor Mercer how the public, including the media, is ‘privy to everything’ that the council does which is part of an ‘open and transparent’ process. Furthermore, White had concerns with the comments made to the press by Councillors Margaret Mercer and Wayne Hannon. David Thwaites expressed similar sentiments in his letter to council.

When asked for comment on their votes on the pay increase, Councillors Hannon and Mercer had told Dufferin News of their worries over the accessibility of the councillor role, as they believe that the current wage is a barrier to entry.

“If somebody needs to work, if they have a mortgage, for example, they would never be able to run for council because the hours are so demanding and they would have to give up their other job,” explained Mercer. “It’s really not fair, it’s almost an elite kind of place to be, and I don’t think a council position works well in that respect.”

“I think the job is a lot more work than some people realize,” explained Councillor Wayne Hannon. “There’s a fair bit of expense. By the time you get done carrying out your duties, it’s significantly less pay.” Similar to Mercer, Hannon also raised concerns about the attractiveness and accessibility of being on council, saying it is not meant to be a ‘retirement club for wealthy people’.

Thwaites contended that this description misrepresents the current composition of council and ignores Melancthon councilmembers from past terms. Mayor White agreed.

In addition to this, both White and Thwaites took issue with Councillor Mercer’s remarks pertaining to CAO Denise Holmes.

“Denise Holmes has served the Township of Melancthon for twenty-five years with hard work and commitment, she deserves a rookie Councilor’s respect rather than as a prop to rationalize the Councilor’s own purpose,” David Thwaites wrote in his letter to council.

Mercer declared that the observation was fact, and that ‘it was not an insult’. Mayor White stated that it was taken as one.

“This is the kind of ridiculous and disgraceful comments you guys make in the public, it is unbelievable, while trying to justify a 40% wage increase in a time of a pandemic when people are losing their jobs all over the place,” Mayor Darren White exclaimed. “When people are struggling to pay their bills, you two feel it is appropriate to go out in the public and make other people look bad to make yourselves look good.”

Melancthon’s Mayor went on to attest that both he and former Councillor Thwaites made the recommendation of waiting until next term to implement any form of pay increase when the motion was being discussed before the vote, as they were against councilmembers setting their own wages. White said that this was brought up on more than one occasion and ultimately rejected. David Thwaites has made similar declarations. Mayor White reaffirmed how only those who voted in favour of the motion can move to have the matter revisited.

Out of the remaining members of council, all but Mayor Darren White are able to move to have the matter of the wage increase reconsidered. Due to procedural bylaws, only those on the winning side of a motion can bring it back before council. The mayor made this known repeatedly throughout the meeting. Despite this, immediately after it was once again explained, Councillor Mercer suggested that since Mayor White ‘feels strongly’ about it, he should move the motion. The mayor restated that he could not.

In the end, the wage increase was not revisited by Melancthon councilmembers at this meeting.

Other items from November 19th, Melancthon Council Meeting

  • Melancthon councilmembers formally accepted David Thwaites resignation from council
  • Melancthon council decided to table the discussion on how to fill the vacant council seat until a later meeting
  • Mayor Darren White appointed to Melancthon Police Services Board. replacing David Thwaites as the Municipal Representative
    • Nominated by Deputy Mayor Dave Besley

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