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'Bad optics': Barrie paid two police chiefs $564K combined in 2023

'There is a portion of our community that’s ‘defund the police’ and it’s a very, very small portion,' says deputy mayor
Retired Barrie police chief Kimberley Greenwood (left) was paid $289,474 in 2023 while current Police Chief Rich Johnston had a salary of $274,819. Both salaries were included on the Sunshine List for 2023.

Why did Barrie essentially pay two police chiefs a full salary in 2023?

The annual Sunshine List says current Police Chief Rich Johnston was paid $274,819 last year, while Kimberley Greenwood, who retired as the city's police chief at the end of 2022, earned $289,474 in salary last year.

So why pay two police chiefs a salary in the same year?

Greg Ferguson, chairman of the Barrie Police Services (BPS) Board, explained it this way: “Compensation paid to retired chief Greenwood in 2023 included accrued time and retirement benefits in accordance with her contract with the (BPS) board,” he said by email Wednesday.

Deputy Mayor Robert Thomson, vice-chairman of the police services board, said vacation and sick time are part of the accrued time and retirement benefits Greenwood received.

Deputy Mayor Robert Thomson represents Ward 5 and is also vice-chair of the Barrie Police Services Board. | Image supplied

“It’s an accumulated amount throughout her whole career in Barrie,” Thomson said.

But he said it’s also about how this looks.

“It’s just bad optics,” Thomson said. “If this was anything else, other than police... There is a portion of our community that’s ‘defund the police’ and it’s a very, very small portion, but it seems … everybody thinks police because it’s such a large line item (in the city budget).”

Greenwood’s 2023 job title is listed as chief of police on the Sunshine List, her employer the City of Barrie and she had, in addition to her salary, $52,003 in taxable benefits.

She was hired as police chief in March 2013. Barrie police chiefs typically have five year contracts, so being hired in 2013 and rehired in 2018 would take Greenwood to March 2023.

Johnston was sworn in as Barrie police chief on Dec. 22, 2022.

Police spending is budgeted at $67.5 million this year, a 6.78 per cent or almost a $4.3-million increase from last year, from $63.24 million.

Of the 6.78 per cent budget increase, 5.3 per cent is for salaries and benefits alone this year. Salaries, benefits and overtime are estimated to be 95 per cent of this year’s police budget.

On the eve of city council giving final approval to its 2024 operating budget, which includes policing, BPS said a recent financial review found a $1.2-million accumulated surplus that spanned several years, was no longer needed and should be returned to the city.

Police said this reserve was unallocated and, as a result, the police board advised the city these funds will be returned to the municipality, and in future years, any surplus will be addressed within the same budget year.

Craig Millar, Barrie treasurer and chief financial officer, said the city’s financial policy framework has guidelines on allocating any year-end city surpluses. The policy recommends allocating funds to capital and stabilization reserves and council, through the annual year-end report, ultimately approves how surpluses are allocated.

Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act requires any public servant salary at or above $100,000 to be declared and published yearly.

There are at least 243 Barrie Police Service employees on the list, ranging from front-line officers to those working in supervisory and management positions last year. There were 226 on the 2022 list.

The Sunshine List includes government employees, as well as those that work for Crown agencies, municipalities, hospitals, boards of public health, school boards, universities and colleges, Ontario Power Generation and other public-sector employers who receive a significant level of funding from the provincial government.

Since the Sunshine List was established in 1996, the threshold for disclosure — salaries of $100,000 — has not changed. According to the government of Ontario website used for Sunshine List disclosure, the Canadian Consumer Price Index has increased by 54 per cent between 1996 and 2020.

There were 4,494 people on the Sunshine List when it was released in 1996. This year there are 300,570 public service employees listed.

The full Sunshine List for 2023 can be found by clicking here.

— With files by Kevin Lamb