Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sheegl wins lottery by quitting

Ex-CAO may walk away with $443K in parting gifts

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Most Canadians associate the first of July with warm and fuzzy memories, considering the fact the vast majority of us get the day off to sleep in, go to the lake and maybe guzzle a couple of beers.

Winnipeggers, however, may not want to celebrate on Canada Day 2014. That's because July 1, 2014 is a date when residents of this city will learn precisely how much money the City of Winnipeg paid out to former chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl this year.

Don't be surprised if that number is in the vicinity of $443,000, a figure equal to 10 months worth of 2013 salary plus one year's worth of severance, thanks to a package approved by council's executive policy committee on Thursday morning.

Every Canada Day, the City of Winnipeg must release its annual compensation disclosure, which lists off payouts to every employee who earned more than $50,000 in a given year.

Sheegl, who served as the head of Winnipeg's public service from 2011 until his resignation this week, was slated to earn approximately $243,000 this year in salaries and benefits. Pro-rated to 10 months of work, that grants him a base salary of $200,000 for 2013.

Add in a year of severance, and Sheegl will earn about $443,000. This will either appear on the books this year or will be spread out over two years, which is an accounting option open to the City of Winnipeg.

One year's worth of severance pay is a normal payout for a senior member of the public service who departs without getting fired.

In 2007, former police chief Jack Ewatski earned $361,226 for about six months' work. The same year, former chief administrative officer Annitta Stenning earned $343,500 for about nine months' work. Stenning also received another $50,000 in 2008, the year after she left the city.

In other words, it won't be unprecedented for Sheegl to walk away from the city with nearly a half-million dollars in salary and severance.

But it may still come as an affront to residents of this city, many of whom hold the former CAO responsible for some of the problems that have afflicted the City of Winnipeg since he was hired as the director of planning, property and development in 2008.

Sheegl was a controversial choice from the start, given his friendship to Mayor Sam Katz and absence of administrative experience. While some members of council saw him as a breath of straight-talking fresh air, he soon gave his critics reason to remain skeptical.

In the fall of 2008, Sheegl was property director when council narrowly approved a plan to retroactively amend a lease of city land to Riverside Park Management, a company that sublets city land to the Katz-owned Winnipeg Goldeyes. That change saved Riverside Park $233,000.

In the summer of 2009, as deputy chief administrator, he enraged River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow by almost walking the Parker land swap onto the final property-committee agenda of the summer.

As deputy CAO, Sheegl also helped put together a $135-million new police-headquarters project that's costing the city $194 million (and counting) and helped nail down a guaranteed maximum price of $190 million for a new football stadium that's costing the Winnipeg Football Club $204 million (and, hopefully, not counting).

And as Winnipeg's CAO, he oversaw the disastrous rollout of a water-park plan at The Forks and the fallout from the scandal regarding the fire-paramedic-station replacement program, which he claimed to be aware of only from a level of "50,000 feet."

There is no evidence Sheegl was directly involved on the decision to build a fire-paramedic station on privately owned land, arrange a three-for-one land swap for that property or have any hand in any other aspect of the fire-paramedic station construction project.

But since the review into the project is coming out on Monday -- and he was the person in charge of the public service -- it wasn't much of a surprise to see Sheegl resign beforehand.

What is surprising is all seven members of executive policy committee allowed him to take home a severance package before the review came out. If he is found culpable, many Winnipeggers are going to be angry on Canada Day 2014.

And if he isn't, well -- they may be angry anyway. It's hard for the average person to look at $443,000 in compensation and wonder why the heck they don't get a chance to be the chief administrative officer of the City of Winnipeg.

Happy Canada Day, everyone.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 A3


Updated on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 3:43 PM CDT: colour picture added

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

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