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Calgary mayor's former chief of staff receives $104K payout after 3 months on job

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Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek's former chief of staff received a six-figure payout after his employment was suddenly terminated less than 100 days after he was hired, CTV News has learned.

Stephen Carter was dismissed for undisclosed reasons on Feb. 2 and received a $104,166.65 in severance, according to a copy of a City of Calgary letter released Wednesday under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Carter served as Gondek's campaign manager during her successful election campaign in October 2021. He previously worked for former mayor Naheed Nenshi and former premier Alison Redford.

When asked about what was behind the decision to end his employment and what Calgary taxpayers should make of Carter's payout, Mayor Gondek was short, going as far as downplaying the issue.

"This is a matter that I'm not discussing," Gondek told CTV News. "I've been advised to remain quiet about this. This is a personnel matter that I am not speaking to.

"I find it interesting that we continue to pick on tiny little things that don't matter in the grand scheme of getting our city back on track."

CARTER KEPT IN THE DARK

Carter declined an interview Wednesday but offered a statement, saying he was never given a reason for the sudden dismissal.

"My severance, in my opinion, was granted for two reasons: to ensure I was not vocal about the unjust nature of my dismissal and to avoid embarrassing litigation," Carter wrote.

He went on to say there was no agreement to forgo litigation.

"If dispersions about me and my character continue, I may be pushed towards action in the courts," he said.

At the time of Carter's dismissal, some councillors — including Sonya Sharp and Andre Chabot — were critical of his approach to gathering councillors' votes, saying they complained to the mayor's office.

'UNHAPPY ISN'T ENOUGH'

Calgary employment lawyer Joel Fairbrother with Bow River Law says there are many reasons why someone may receive such a payout, even after a short term of employment.

"In the law, you either get severance or you don't. And so someone can be entitled to you know, if they're entitled to 'x', they're entitled to 'x', even if they were a mediocre employee, or if they were the best employee ever."

He says that it is possible the reason that the mayor's office isn't saying anything is there isn't enough evidence to prove that something took place.

"It's always the case that the employer is unhappy with who they're terminating otherwise (they) wouldn't be terminated," Fairbrother said.

"So unhappy isn't enough. If they don't have enough to get to just cause, they're better off not alleging it, they're better off paying out, or negotiating settlement."

'IT'S ABSURD'

Nevertheless, Carter's payout does leave a bad taste in the mouths of those who keep a watchful eye on government waste.

"This matters to taxpayers and this really shows disregard for taxpayers' hard-earned money," said Franco Terrazzano with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"Carter barely made it to lunch time and he's walking away with a six-figure severance as the door hits him on the backside? It's absurd."

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