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Severance packages provide soft landings for TransLink executives

Freedom of information records show $1.5 million paid out to half dozen transit managers
File photo of Doug Kelsey, former general manager of the BC Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC), the SkyTrain and West Coast Express division. Kelsey was paid a severance of $417,299.84 when he was let go last year.

TransLink spent nearly $1.5 million on severance payments to six executives who were shown the door before and after the end of last year’s failed plebiscite campaign, according to records released under Freedom of Information.

The biggest golden parachute was $417,299.84 for Doug Kelsey, the general manager of the BC Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC), the SkyTrain and West Coast Express division. His pay packet for 2014, the most recent year reported, was $355,442.

Kelsey spent 16 years with TransLink but was not unemployed long after leaving the transportation agency. He became chief operating officer of Portland’s bus and rail transit agency, TriMet, last November. His annual starting salary: US$208,000. Kelsey’s BCRTC replacement, Australian import Vivienne King, was hired in March.

Kelsey and Bob Paddon, the executive vice-president of strategic planning and stakeholder relations, were both let go two weeks after the July 2-announced, 62% vote to reject a sales tax hike to help pay for TransLink’s 10-year, $7.7 billion expansion plan.

Paddon spent 13 years at TransLink and received a $198,629 parting payment.

Three weeks before the plebiscite ended, TransLink terminated its top two planners, Brian Mills and Tamim Raad. Both Mills and Raad had been with TransLink since 1999.

Mills, the system planning and research director, was paid $294,048 in severance; Raad, the strategic planning and policy director, was paid $260,780. Their 2014 salaries were reported as $171,000 each. Both are now consultants. Likewise for George Bell, the former TransLink director of security, who was dispatched with $83,116 last August.

Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman, who led the no campaign last year, said the severances are another sign of TransLink waste.

“The solution here is to sign your senior staff to fixed term contracts, give yourself a natural out after three to five years to get rid of these guys if they’re not working out,” Bateman said.

Dave Beckley, the vice-president of rail projects, was with TransLink for five years and received a $200,830 severance.

In an August 10 memo, then-interim CEO Doug Allen announced Beckley’s departure “to pursue other interests.”

Beckley’s responsibilities included the Compass smart card and faregate system and integration with the Evergreen Line, neither of which remained on time or on budget.

Beckley returned to TransLink supplier Thales Rail Signalling Solutions Inc., where he had worked from 1994 to 2011. In 2014, TransLink paid Thales $1,507,078.

Bateman said Beckley’s return to Thales is a reason why there should be a cooling-off period.

“You don’t want these guys going back and forth between TransLink and companies that rely on TransLink’s money,” Bateman said.

TransLink chairman Don Rose said the personnel decisions were Allen’s, not the board’s.

“I don’t think that it’s appropriate to get into reasons for personnel decisions that would end up becoming public information,” Rose said. “While the board is well informed by management at the time, whether it’s today or tomorrow or last year, the board is consulted on certain things, but the board may not make the decisions you might think they make.”