Revelstoke councillor who resigned over council self-pay-raise controversy now on council pay ‘task force’ by acclamation

Former Revelstoke city councillor, Steven Cross, has been appointed to a city task force that will make recommendations on mayor and council pay and benefits prior to the Oct. 15, 2022 municipal election.

Revelstoke City Hall pictured on a snowy day in late 2021. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

A former Revelstoke city councillor who resigned in January, 2020, citing ethics concerns over Revelstoke mayor and council plans to dramatically hike its own pay in stages, has been appointed to a special task force struck to make recommendations on mayor and council pay and benefits.

Former councillor Steven Cross has been appointed to the three-person task force, along with Stuart Andrews and Miranda Murphy.

Revelstoke city committee, commission, and task force membership selection is decided by vote of mayor and council during closed door meetings, a normal local governance procedure that allows for frank review and discussion of applicants’ qualifications.

Was the mayor and council’s selection an olive branch to a former councillor, Steven Cross, who resigned over the pay raise issue? The ensuing controversy attracted provincial media attention to the city, and also set off an abnormal year-long by-election saga to elect a replacement councillor.

After hearing the news of the appointments, revelstokemountaineer.com reached out to the City of Revelstoke to inquire about how many people applied to sit on the three-person task force.

City of Revelstoke Chief Administrative Officer, James Thackray, who has since left the position after only five months on the job, responded, saying that three people applied, meaning that everyone who applied was eventually appointed.

The city did not announce the appointment of the new task force: it was revealed in the minutes of an in camera portion of Feb. 22, 2022 council regular meeting. The minutes were posted online on the city’s website on Mar. 4, 2022 as part of the Mar. 8, 2022 council regular meeting agenda package.

Former city councillor Cross, is one of three residents appointed to the “Council Remuneration Task Force,” a committee with a limited mandate focused on making recommendations to council about its pay and benefits. The committee mandate is to complete the recommendations prior to the Oct. 15, 2022 municipal government election.

The second task force member, Stuart Andrews, has been in local news over the years for his opposition to gravel pits in the Westside Road area, near where he lives. Andrews has been an intermittent attendee of council meetings over the years, sometimes sitting in the public gallery prior to COVID-19 restrictions.

The third task force appointee is Miranda Murphy. Her LinkedIn bio lists her as a Chartered Professional Accountant with community volunteer experience on the city’s Social Development Committee, the Revelstoke Cycling Association board, and the Revelstoke Community Foundation board.

Council has also appointed Ron Mattiussi, a former interim CAO of the city and now consultant to the city, to a position on the committee. Revelstokemountaineer.com has requested clarification of Mr. Mattiussi’s role with the city in previous reporting, with only a limited response from the city. Since we made our request, it was revealed that Thackray has left the city.

Mattiussi’s current role as a city consultant with senior-level authority has not been clearly defined, nor has his role on the task force. Traditionally, senior level staff staff members are appointed to provide non-political guidance to committee and task force members.

City council opted to revisit the council pay raise issue in September of 2021, meaning it has now taken the city six months to assemble the task force.

Later in 2021, the city posted a call for members on its website, setting a Nov. 26, 2021 deadline for applications. However, the deadline passed and, on its webpage that advertises city committee vacancies, city staff changed the application deadline to “open until filled.” The listing remained active until the time this story was published.

Last week, revelstokemountaineer.com sent a follow up list of questions to city staff regarding the new task force to City of Revelstoke CAO James Thackray, who has since departed. We requested terms of reference for the task force, the dates when it will meet, a clarification on what Mr. Mattiussi’s role is with the city, and clarification on the terms of reference for the task force. There was no response, but it’s unclear if Thackray was still acting as CAO on Mar. 10, the day we sent the request for information.

The advertisement for the task force states, “Members must not be currently elected at any level of government or be a current staff member at the City of Revelstoke. Members must not have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the outcome of the recommendation.”

The task force’s term is set to expire on Nov. 1, 2022, after the B.C. General Voting Day on Oct. 15, 2022, when municipal, regional, and school board elections are held across B.C.

In council discussion, the intent is to finalize decisions on mayor and council remuneration prior to the election, but have any changes come into effect after the election.

Analysis: High interest, yet low engagement

Revelstokemountaineer.com provided analysis on the plan to revisit the council pay raise issue in this Oct. 17, 2021 story, at the time when the decision was made. Much of it is still relevant.

A timely update is the city’s communications engagement infrastructure was only able to attract three applicants and needed to extend the deadline to do so, despite a significant amount of public interest in the pay raise controversy in early 2020.

Two of the applicants, Mr. Andrews and Mr. Cross, have already been associated with city and council proceedings and have at times taken critical positions on city governance, such as Mr. Cross on the council pay raise plan, which prompted his resignation.

The remuneration task force is not a glamourous appointment, especially given the environment that has led up to its formation. Nevertheless, the lack of more applicants does provide insight into the Revelstoke municipal government world’s ability to reach out and engage residents.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text him at 250-814-8710.