This year’s staff appreciation and dinner will be replaced by a day off and a grocery gift card.
Each November, council holds an awards and appreciation dinner at the Oakwood Community Centre, says a report by staff. The event welcomes staff, community partners, and our volunteers for dinner, awards, prizes and entertainment.
Given the last eight months, holding that dinner this year doesn't seem like an appropriate way of going about it,” said CAO Lindsay Barron. “This year, we're proposing we send out a fun Christmas card to our community partners and volunteers, thanking them for their continuous efforts and contributions to our community as well as a small token of our appreciation.”
The township can revisit that annual dinner option next summer, she added.
Further, Barron said, as a token of appreciation, staff will be given the full day off on Dec. 24, instead of half a day.
“We do recognize that we should still keep the municipal office open as there are a number of people that do come in for matters,” she said. “Senior management staff have offered to stay behind and keep the office open and running to facilitate service to the public.”
In lieu of the dinner, all permanent and contract staff will be given a $50 Foodland gift card.
Where council was on board with the proposed alternative, some had questions around the choice of the gift card.
“Is there any consideration to picking another location than just one?” asked Coun. Jeff Bumstead, adding if staff had thought about contacting local businesses to check if they would be interested in contributing a gift card or maybe giving staff the ability to choose a business of their liking.
He added his concern was rooted in the matter becoming a problem with the integrity commissioner.
“It's just the optics of it that have been questioned to me and will be questioned to the integrity commissioner,” said Bumstead.
Barron explained the thought process behind the decision.
“The choice was made so people would have a choice of groceries,” said Barron. “If council has ideas about a preferred vendor, I'd be willing to listen.”
Coun. Paul Raymond said he agreed with staff’s decision of choosing Foodland.
“We really really need to extend a big thank you to our staff for hanging in there,” he said. “Who knows what we’re going to come across next year. I'm fine with going with the $50 card, logistically, it makes sense.”
Mayor Ted Walker said the matter of concern his peer was referring concerns the notion of an elected representative choosing to support and endorse a certain business.
“This is a corporate decision made by staff,” he said. “You don't want to make it too complicated and make more work for staff when we're trying to acknowledge their efforts. We do sole source just from a convenience and logistics point of view, so I don't think there's any concern with this from the integrity commissioner.”
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com