Earlier, we reported embattled children and family development assistant deputy minister Jeremy Berland had taken on a two-year secondment with the University of Victoria. But guess what? In a scrum today, the minister responsible Stan Hagen admitted that secondment will be financed by the government. "It wasn't my decision. I wasn't asked to make that decision. But that decision was part of the negotiations," said Minister Hagen.
So if he didn't make that decision, who did? "That would be done at a senior level of the bureaucracy," Minister Hagen replied, adding he "found out on Friday that negotiations were underway between the University of Victoria and Mr. Berland," who earned $114,896 in the last fiscal year. That's a full day after we told you about rumours the senior bureaucrat was on his way out.
Minister Hagen didn't respond to questions as to why Mr. Berland's research work couldn't have been done by someone else at the university. Nor could he could say whether the premier's office had been involved in those secondment negotiations. Although he denied Mr. Berland's depature had anything to do with the ongoing investigations into the death of Sherry Charlie - an explanation New Democrat critic Adrian Dix didn't seem to buy.
"This two-year secondment, at full pay, with presumably severance to follow I don't think is the right expenditure of taxpayer dollars," said Mr. Dix. "If the University of Victoria wants to take him on, then that's an appropriate way to go about things. But for the government to be...scapegoating officials and then giving them cushy deals on the way out seems to be the wrong approach. This is chaos in the ministry of children and family development." The following is a complete copy of Mr. Berland's departure letter.
From: Berland, Jeremy MCF:EX
Sent: Wed, February 15, 2006 1:50 PM
To: MCF All Exchange Mailboxes
As I move on to a great new opportunity at the University of Victoria, I want to let you know how much I admire the work of the staff of the Ministry. There is no more important job in society than providing for the care of vulnerable citizens. Whether you do that behind the scenes or directly with clients, your contributions make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people. I have had many wonderful experiences in the Ministry - lots of public consultation through the various reviews; leading the drafting of the CFCSA, acting as the Regional Director in Prince George, working with Aboriginal communities, being the Director of Child Welfare. These experiences have given me a unique and broad perspective on our work and an undying admiration for all of you who strive so hard to continually improve our services.
In 1983, when I was a child protection social worker in Vancouver, I apprehended a 13 year-old boy. He didn't like me very much and it would be an understatement to say that things did not always go very smoothly for him (or me). Many years later, he tracked me down in Victoria and said "when you were my social worker, you said I would want to talk about what happened to me, can I do that now?" We subsequently spoke at length about the horrific abuse he suffered and I helped him through a criminal trial and some other difficulties. A couple of years ago, another social worker and I were the guests of honour at this young man's wedding. I'm telling you this story as I think it is really what a career in social work should be all about - the small things you say and do that make a difference in people's lives. I know that every single member of our direct service staff in all of the programmes of the ministry has a story like that. You never know when you will get some feedback - if ever.
In my new role, I will be working closely with the Ministry on a number of child welfare related projects, so expect to be seeing and talking with many of you over the next few months. Thanks for all of your support and feedback - it actually has meant a great deal to hear from so many of you over the past couple of years. Good bye for now.
Assistant Deputy Minister -
Regional Operations and Child Welfare
Provincial Director - CFCSA and Adoption