HUNTSVILLE – Huntsville mayor Claude Doughty is denying allegations that nine town hall terminations were motivated by political or personal agendas.
Doughty made the comments after financial information relating to the termination costs of 20 town hall employees was released at a committee meeting earlier this month. Those at the meeting heard the town had spent $1.2 million on termination costs related to those unnamed individuals between January 2007 and September 2012.
Once the information was made public following a freedom of information request, some community members speculated there was another undisclosed $800,000 spent as part of this year’s restructuring initiative that saw nine people lose their jobs.
Those nine were part of the 20 included in the freedom of information request.
Others suggested political rather than financial reasons led to the restructuring terminations.
But Doughty said the restructuring was part of a budget decision made a year ago by all of council with no political agenda attached.
“The restructuring was voted on by all of council as part of our deliberations over the budget last year. It wasn’t my specific agenda whatsoever – it actually came from staff as an option for council to pursue,” he said. “These allegations that it’s my private agenda just are totally unfounded. This was an initiative that came out of council as a whole debating and adopting.”
He said the only motivating factor was the ongoing effort to make the municipal organization more efficient. Restructuring was one of the strategies recommended by staff that council chose to adopt.
He said council had no direct role in determining which positions would be terminated as part of the restructuring.
“There was no political influence in the decision-making as to who would be involved in that program,” said Doughty. “Zero.” He said council was fully aware of what the restructuring strategy would entail. Numerous presentations made by staff consistently explained it.
“It’s very clear and consistent all the way through. There’s no change, that’s what we voted on, that’s what we decided to do,” he said.
He pointed to Huntsville having the lowest mill rate of Muskoka’s three towns as a result of initiatives such as these.
“It doesn’t just happen. You have to work hard at that stuff, you have to make some tough decisions from time to time to keep it as efficient,” he said. “It doesn’t come easily, but it’s our job to get it done. We’re doing it, we’re delivering it for the best dollar we can for the taxpayer.”
Doughty also rejected the comment that there were another $800,000 in undisclosed termination costs connected to the restructuring. He said that figure is part of the $1.2 million disclosed as part of the freedom of information request.
“They're double counting,” he said. “It’s included as a very significant portion of this year’s initiative.”