Gee, look what comes out right after the byelections.
A lucky guy does three months work and then scores $900,000 in bye-bye bucks scooped from the province’s taxpayer-funded trough.
And the amount is more than twice as much as expected because of Toryland grandstanding.
Where do we sign up?
This isn’t Halloween scary. This is scary real.
It’s Friday. The provincial government’s traditional Take Out The Trash Day, the day those in power in Edmonton for more than four decades dump their garbage when the fewest possible people are watching.
And, with it being Halloween, folks on this particular Friday are paying even less attention.
The man getting the bonanza of bucks is Allaudin Merali. You remember him.
Merali worked as boss bean counter for the Capital Health Region in Edmonton.
In that gig, he spends some beans. He runs up $346,208 on the expense account in three and a half years.
High-end eateries. The finest of vino. A phone for the Mercedes.
You know the finer things for a bigshot on the public’s dime.
But we taxpayers do not know about the expenses. The health region brass does but they’re living the good life. They have expenses of their own.
One day, the Progressive Conservative government gets rid of local health regions and starts up one big Alberta Health Services for the whole province.
The move to one AHS means Merali gets the heave-ho.
He pockets a $1-million cheque and supplemental exec pension of $13,303 a month every month for ten years.
Big, big bucks but not as big as another cushier exec pension of over $20,000 a month.
Anyway, Merali is hired in Ontario, gets some ink in the press about his expenses over there and comes back to Alberta.
The Alberta PC government wants to hire him to oversee their accounting.
You can’t make this stuff up.
But AHS offers Merali a sweeter deal as their boss bean counter.
Three months on the job and a newshound digs up Merali’s old expenses. Just before going public, AHS rolls out the 146 claims on a $346,208 expense tab.
AHS says they and Merali agree the expenses will “detract from his ability” to be the boss bean counter and could hurt the public’s confidence in AHS.
So adios Merali but not before AHS, in writing, says the man “will receive a severance in accordance with the terms of his employment contract.”
That’s one year base pay of $425,000.
It doesn’t end there. Oh no. The public goes ballistic. The provincial PC government says Merali won’t get his severance even though the deal is there in black and white.
Merali sues, talks of damages in the millions. He’s offered his original severance, doesn’t take it and finally agrees to $900,000.
The bump-up is due to paying for damages to Merali.
AHS shoots out a statement Friday. They say Merali’s exit is “without cause.”
Stephen Mandel, the new and very much elected health minister, rolls out a very short statement in the tradition of the less said, the better.
“On the recommendation of legal counsel, government has participated in a settlement that is believed to offer the least possible burden to taxpayers.”
The Alberta government. Where $900,000 severance for three months work is “the least possible burden to taxpayers.”
So it goes. The cash for Merali comes from two pots, AHS and the Alberta provincial government. All our dough.
The Wildrose puts on as happy a face as possible on this unhappy occasion.
Voters have told them they shouldn’t be negative.
Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth tries her hardest.
“It’s extremely disappointing this ongoing scandal resulted in our health care system losing even more dollars that should have been spent on treating patients.”
Forsyth says it’s time to focus on the positive and her party has “a positive and prudent plan” to cap severance payouts and bonuses for all government brass, including at AHS.
Of course, when such a “positive and prudent plan” came to the legislature through Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson it never got to a vote.
So call it negativity. Call it critical. Call it whatever you please.
But call me old-fashioned.
This yarn is neither a trick nor a treat.
Just thought you’d want to know how your hard-earned money is being spent.