Advancing accountability and transparency

The City of Guelph takes the issue of public accountability and transparency seriously and continues to push forward on a number of fronts to align our practices with our principles. 

The Human Resources Annual Report, presented this week to the Finance, Administration, Corporate and Emergency Services Committee, represents management’s accountability to Council for the responsibility they have been delegated to manage  human resources at the City of Guelph.  Through this report, their performance is made transparent to Council and our citizens.

For instance, I hear from some in our community that City Hall is top heavy with management positions or we have too many staff in the Human Resource Department.  The numbers and comparsion to external benchmarks demonstrate this is not true.  This is actually an area where Council and the community can have confidence that we show strong performance.

The dashboard of key performance indicators doesn’t just show where we are doing well but also notes where we lag behind.  The scorecard identifies targets we want to achieve and the strategies our staff are working on to get us there. 

And it is working.  Last year, only 64% of Professional Development Plans were completed.  This was highlighted as a concern by Council as this is a fundamental part of a performance management system.  Efforts over the year have resulted in an increase to 82% and results are tracking even higher this year.  The goal is 100% completion.

And to my knowledge no other City in Ontario publicly reports, as the City is now doing, the number of exits and costs associated with those exits. I have posted previously on the sensitive issue of terminations.  As our Executive Director for Corporate and Human Resources recently noted:

“Employment law and privacy legislation are clear that matters of termination are confidential. When working in the public sector confidentiality needs to be balanced with the public’s right to know, given that taxpayers’ dollars fund municipal government.

To achieve this balance where staff exits and terminations are concerned, Council has approved a policy, posted on the City’s website, that outlines the terms and conditions provided to non union staff should their employment be terminated.

The public has a right to know what formula is used to calculate a severance package when an employee is terminated without cause, along with which benefits-if any-that employee will receive.

Privacy legislation however is clear in that the public does not have a right to know an individual’s specific information i.e. the exact amount of severance, any information about their employment, including but not limited to the dates of their employment, and the reasons an employee has left the organization, voluntarily or otherwise. To breach an individual’s privacy can result in increased liability for any employer. That is, if an employer were to release the reasons someone has been terminated, this would be deemed an unjust violation of the individual’s privacy rights, and would impact their reputation, thereby resulting in a very real possibility of the employer having to pay more to the employee in the form of damages. There is extensive employment case law that clearly demonstrates employers must exercise considerable due diligence in protecting the privacy rights of employees.

As a public employer, the City of Guelph understands the public has a right to information and has taken steps to provide such information publicly, while at the same time respecting the individual’s right to privacy.”

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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