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December 6, 2006 permalink
When caught with their hands in the cookie jar, CAS brings on the excuses. In the article below we respond to each lame excuse with a rebuttal in red.
CAS executive: Perks a necessary 'motivation'
The compensation package that provides the Toronto Children's Aid Society's top executive with a taxpayer-funded sport utility vehicle and other perks is necessary "motivation" to do a tough job, the executive told the Star yesterday.
For specialized organizations like Bell Canada or Sick Kids Hospital, only a few people have the required technical and managerial expertise, and they must be compensated well to keep them on the job. CAS hires executives with no skills beyond social worker training. Some of them have a past in law enforcement, bringing no special skills to the job.
"I don't just write my free ticket," Carolyn Buck, executive director of the Toronto Children's Aid Society, said after provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter released a scathing report on widespread spending abuse throughout the public agency.
Many of the spending abuses the auditor highlighted in his report -- including two SUVs worth more than $50,000 and "numerous expenditures of hundreds of dollars at a time" on executive credit cards at swanky restaurants -- resulted from a probe he conducted at Buck's own office.
Yesterday, the three-year executive defended her compensation package, saying her agency's board of directors had authorized all the perks.
If the Toronto CAS board is like others, it is under control of the executive director. Most are (subordinate) employees, an occasional "community director" is required to sign a contract with the agency pledging to keep its secrets.
"When people from business (backgrounds) come to the Children's Aid Society's boards, they apply business sort of thinking to the health and well-being of executives," she said, adding that on-the-job-extras serve as "motivation to continue to do this very difficult work. This is a high stress job."
Buck, whose salary is about $158,000, admitted she uses a taxpayer-funded SUV. She said $150 car-detailing expenditures mentioned in the auditor's report weren't what they appeared to be.
The cleaning bills are for caseworkers who cart young victims away from traumatic incidents, she said. "Sometimes they're sick in cars or sometimes they soil in cars. It's not that somebody's getting their car cleaned because they'd like to," she said.
Let's guess. Were those $150 car washes for caseworkers' cars or for executives' cars?
Asked whether the $4,600-per-year gym/personal training package the auditor uncovered belonged to her or one of her senior executive colleagues, Buck became defensive.
She said the details made public in regards to executive compensation packages are "really beyond realistic."
"I'd like the public to understand that we pay very careful attention to how we spend our money here," she said. "We put the needs of children first all the time."
Really? The auditor reported that caseworkers don't visit their wards on time, and 3/4 of the "serious occurrences" (deaths disasters or missing kids) are not handled properly.
Peel Children's Aid Society executive director Paul Zarnke said that's exactly what his agency was doing when officials authorized staff to take clients on two trips to the Caribbean last year.
His agency came under fire by the auditor, who highlighted a $1,700 all-inclusive trip to a St. Martin resort for a caseworker and child, and a $4,000 one-week trip to St. Lucia for another caseworker and child. Zarnke said, "It's about doing our job: returning children to their families in the cheapest way possible."
A week? Did they make the trip by boat?
A new accountability office will oversee the societies with more rigid controls imposed on expenses, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.
Managers for the Children's Aid Society of Hamilton and the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Hamilton say the findings are not reflective of their operations, but they to will review expense policies and procedures to see if they meet recommendations from McCarter.
Both Hamilton CAS executive director Dominic Verticchio and CCAS executive director Beatrice Kemp said no one from their agencies has an expensive car or has gone on expensive trips at the agency's expense.
Hamilton is one of Ontario's hotspots, with a disproportionate number of complaints of children taken without cause.
Source: Hamilton Spectator