Former Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff Maguire and the current Police Services Board agreed to part ways in June of 2017. It wasn’t until early this year that the cost of that “buyout” was made public causing the typical social media firestorm anytime public money is used in a manner in which armchair politicians deem inappropriate.
What hasn’t been discussed however is how the Chief ended up with a three-year contract extension by the previous Police Services Board, seemingly going unnoticed, just before they turned things over to the incoming Board. McGuire became Niagara’s top cop in 2012 when he arrived from Toronto and his contract was to run to 2017.
Former Regional Chair and Police Board member Gary Burroughs, current Thorold Regional Councilor Henry D’Angela and former Port Colborne Mayor and current Welland MP Vance Badawey, were the three regional representatives who gave McGuire the sweetheart extension in September of 2014, just a month before the 2014 municipal elections.
During the Feb. 21 Corporate Services meeting, D’Angela was asked about the extension to the former Chief. “Mr. Chair I cannot really comment on a personnel item that was confidential and dealt with in confidence. There is information there that’s not privy to all this council and there’s a decision made at that point in time.”
“If we are going to revisit every single decision that the Police Board makes we’re going to be here a long time,” D’Angela added.
For his part McGuire has said he was extended to 2020 to reassure the front line that he wouldn’t apply for the Chief’s job back in Toronto, from whence he came. D’Angela has parroted that rationale. Although some have stated that it would have been much cheaper to simply tell frontline staff you won’t be leaving to pursue another job.
As happens more often then not, when a new Board is elected or appointed, things sometimes don’t work out between them and the returning senior staff. After the three years together, the current board, made up of three Regional Councillors, a citizen appointee and three members appointed by the Provincial Liberal government, decided to part company with the Chief. Their rationale is understandably confidential. Human Resource laws and precedents in the public and private sector make it so. But reading between the lines, controlling costs and staff morale may have been part of the issue.
Board chair, Bob Gale doesn’t hold back in his claims. “We are very proud of our Senior Command Team headed by Chief Bryan McCulloch: he has made strides already in Community relations, says Gale. “Our Board,” said Gale, “and as a result our Community, is very pleased with the $800,000 per year savings the new Chief has found in redeployment of officers from the front desk and addressing sick-time and overtime with the deployment of new officers.”
Provincial Liberal appointee and Vice Chair Ken Ganssel added, “Everybody is quite happy and impressed with how things are going. The Board has a good working relationship with the new Chief and the two Deputy Chiefs.”
The public outcry to this specific “retirement” is interesting given the litany of public service higher ups who have cost Niagara taxpayers a small fortune over the years. Aside from other police chiefs there have been hospital CEO’s, senior municipal staff and post-secondary institution senior staff.
The issue isn’t about former Chief McGuire or the current Police Services Board. The precedent to spend a boatload of money to get rid of someone if things aren’t working out was set decades ago and goes across the province. It isn’t anything new.
“There needs to be a provincewide cap on public sector employee buyouts in order to protect the taxpayer as well as policies developed so that outgoing public-sector Boards can’t lock in their pals with long-term contract extensions just prior to an election or the end of their term,” says Niagara Falls PC candidate Chuck McShane.