Four senior staff in the Town of Lake Cowichan made more than $75,000 last year.
The top paid bureaucrat in the community is chief administrative officer Joseph Fernandez, who earned a total of $128,000 with pay and expenses in 2016, according to the town’s financial statements.
Nagi Rizk, Lake Cowichan’s public works superintendent, made $121,700 in pay and expenses last year, while director of finance Ronnie Gill made $93,000.
Dalton Smith, manager of the Cowichan Lake Education and Conference Centre, made $80,000 in 2016.
As for council members, Mayor Ross Forrest made $20,400 in pay and expenses in 2016, plus another $11,600 for traveling and attending conferences.
The other four members of council made $12,240 in pay and expenses, plus pay for travelling and attending conferences.
In 2016, pay for travelling and attending conferences among councillors ranged from $2,900 at the low end for Lorna Vomacka to $6,700 for Robert Day.
Forrest said he believes the pay for senior staff is justified because they are very demanding positions that require a lot of expertise.
In fact, Forrest said, in his opinion, Fernandez is underpaid compared to other CAOs in the province.
“We’ve been very pleased with the performance of our CAO,” he said.
“This is a smaller community with fewer staff so our CAO is required to do a lot more work than many others in his position in other places. We get good value for the money that’s paid.”
Forrest said the wages for members of council in Lake Cowichan is, like the vast majority of other local governments in B.C., much lower than senior staff.
He said that ensures people running for council are interested in the job for the right reasons.
“If wages for council members were high, many would want the job just for the pay and not for the good of the community,” Forrest said.
He explained that his expenses for travelling and attending conferences is higher than the rest of council because he attends many meetings each year in his role as mayor, including the annual meetings of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“As well as mayor of Lake Cowichan, I also work with the Municipality of North Cowichan’s parks and recreation department and I give back about four weeks of my vacation time each year to attend meetings for Lake Cowichan,” he said.