George Harvie is defending the hiring of a former election running mate to a position in the mayor’s office.
Social media has been abuzz with negative comments about Delta’s new mayor appointing Param Grewal to the newly retitled position of director: public engagement and intergovernmental affairs.
The hiring has been called a “political pay-off” for Grewal who narrowly missed out on a Delta council seat in last month’s civic election.
Harvie told the Optimist that’s not so, saying it’s always been within the mayor’s purview to hire their own staff and the retirement of former mayor’s administrative assistant Dona Packer provided an opportunity to expand the role.
“The mayor needs that and it’s not just the mayor of Delta, they generally hire their own staff. Secondly, Dona retired, so I had that position and wanted to get more utility from that position and wanted to hire somebody with the experience Param has. I was very fortunate he decided to take that job,” explained Harvie.
“That job is autonomous and is a four-year contract. I had the HR (human resources) staff draw up the contract to make sure it was done properly and within the city’s guidelines, but he does not direct staff and he reports directly to me.”
According to the human resources department, Grewal’s annual salary will be $125,000, while Packer made $114,000. The increase correlates with Grewal’s added responsibilities and title as director.
A candidate on Harvie’s Achieving for Delta slate, Grewal finished seventh, 600 votes back of running mate Dylan Kruger who claimed the final seat.
Grewal told the Optimist his experience in outreach and advocacy will be an asset in the job that includes working with non-profits, seniors groups and the public to help address issues.
“On the campaign trail we heard so much about what needed to be done and how some people and groups require special assistance. It is essentially to ensure that the public is always being engaged for the betterment of Delta residents. That is one key component of my responsibilities,” Grewal said.
Grewal said he has worked for 15 years on behalf on non-profit organizations. His experience also includes working as a constituency assistant for a number of ministers, including as an executive assistant for Jinny Sims.
“The intergovernmental affairs position dovetails with my experience over the last 20 years. We need to work with the south of Fraser municipalities. There are issues we need to work in conjunction with them, whether it’s the bridge or Highway 99 corridor,” said Grewal. “There’s all kinds of issues and also similarly with the provincial government, whether it’s the bridge issue or affordable housing or mental health and addictions issues.”
Coun. Lois Jackson, also a member of Achieving For Delta, described Grewal’s appointment as a positive move, saying, “In North Delta the demographics are very different than South Delta. We do need to have a conduit between ourselves and the Indo-Canadian community. There’s a lot that goes on that, I think, we can miss. There’s a lot of barriers, in particular, with the senior people.”
The former mayor said the city “needs someone that has a good understanding of the North Delta community.”
Asked for his take on the hiring, veteran Coun. Bruce McDonald, a member of the rival Independents Working For You ticket, said he hasn’t been informed about it from the mayor’s office, but he will be asking for information.
“I haven’t got a clue. I haven’t had any communication from the (municipal) hall what it’s all about and we were not told he was being hired. I have no idea what his job description is and I have no idea what he’s being paid,” McDonald said.