Canada

Koebel gets severance package

Walkerton's disgraced former water manager will be paid thousands of dollars in severance despite months of debate and outrage. Local politicians voted Monday night to give Stan Koebel a buyout package worth more than $87,000.

Koebel resigned his post as Walkerton's water manager in November of last year, in exchange for a $98,000 buyout.

A month later he appeared at the Walkerton public inquiry and admitted faking water records and failing to warn townspeople about a deadly E.coli outbreak in the water.

People were outraged at the revelations and at the settlement.

"It is distasteful to me in the extreme. I dislike it," said councillor Stephen Barker, who originally said paying severance would be like spitting on the graves of the seven people who died from E.coli poisoning last spring.

But after months of debate and of consulting with lawyers, the members of town council Barker among them voted to pay Koebel.

Barker says his decision to vote in favour of the package was influenced by the fact that Koebel was threatening to sue, and lawyers had adviced he would likely have won. Council decided that paying Koebel would be cheaper than fighting him in court.

"We have tried everything reasonably within our power to avoid doing what we're doing. The only small victory is that we did not pay him the whole amount that he claimed," said Barker. "Given what we know, about what the evidence would be on our behalf," he said. "To proceed any further would essentially be to add insult to injury."

And in what seems like pouring salt on a wound, Koebel will get his package before people in Walkerton get their provincial compensation for suffering through Canada's worst ever case of E.coli water contamination.

Councillor Chris Peabody says he doesn't like the deal either, but like Barker, he says the town had no choice.

"It is the best we could do. In the end, the legal advice came back that we would lose a lawsuit."

An inquiry is currently under way looking into the tragedy.

"It doesn't do anything for the healing process knowing Stan gets a payoff," said resident Phil Englishman.

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