- Office of the Comptroller will review its disclosure policy of NBSO’s salaries
The government agency responsible for directing traffic on New Brunswick's power transmission grid has agreed to release salary information as it has in past years.
In an about face, New Brunswick System Operator general counsel Kevin Roherty said Tuesday the organization will make the information public following two days of intense pressure to do so.
"If the undertaking is to provide the document we provided before, we will certainly do that," he told the Energy and Utilities Board, adding the information will likely be available on Wednesday.
The system operator — an independent, non-profit agency — began its appearance before the EUB on Monday, and NBSO executives were subject to intense questioning about their salaries and why they refused to make them public.
EUB lawyer Ellen Desmond continued the attack on Tuesday.
"Two years ago, it was provided on the public record. Last year, it was provided in confidence. Why was it not provided to the board?" she asked.
NBSO executives got large pay raises last year, despite a government-wide wage freeze.
For example, Jean Finn, the No. 2 executive at the organization, got a 20 per cent raise to $170,000 last year when his title was switched to executive vice president from vice president.
Roherty got a 13 per cent raise to $156,000 last year, even though his title was unchanged.
This year saw another government-wide wage freeze and another round of raises at the NBSO — but who got what remained a mystery.
Daniel Theriault, the public intervenor, said it's important to know because people on the street eventually pay for it.
"At the end of the day, they pass the cost back to the market participants. In New Brunswick most market participants are NB Power group of companies and that is reflected in rates they charge," he said.
After two days of questions and bad publicity, Roherty reversed the NBSO's position.
Salaries greatest expense
At more than $7 million, NBSO's largest expense is staff salaries.
Government departments and Crown corporations must annually release salary figures for all employees who earn more than $40,000 in public accounts documents.
A Department of Finance spokesman said in an email statement that the Office of the Comptroller had deemed the NBSO an independent body when it was created in 2004. The comptroller's office decides which organizations are forced to publicly disclose salaries.
NBSO is an independent agency that is self-financing. Its funding comes from power companies, mainly NB Power, that wheel power across its transmission lines.
The NBSO also disclosed on Monday that NBSO executives undertook a study into acquiring new office space last year after being told not to by the regulatory board.