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Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim expected to outspend Stewart on mayor’s office salaries

Projected annual salary spending on 10 staff members in Sim's office is nearly $880,000.
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is projected to spent almost $880,000 in annual salaries on 10 staff in his office.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is projected to outspend predecessor Kennedy Stewart with 10 staff in his office who have annual salaries that add up to almost $880,000.

Nine have backgrounds working in political jobs for Sim’s ABC Vancouver party, the BC Liberals or as candidates for civic office. According to a list released by the city hall freedom of information office, chief of staff Kareem Allam leads the pack with a $150,067 annual pay rate, followed by senior adviser David Grewal at $135,052.

Allam started 2022 as campaign manager for Kevin Falcon’s successful political comeback to win the BC Liberal leadership race. Allam also managed ABC’s campaign, which resulted in landslide victories on Oct. 15 for city council and park board. He is still listed as a partner on the website of Fairview Strategy, a strategic communication, public opinion research and Indigenous relations firm.

Grewal co-founded natural gas supplier Absolute Energy Inc. and ran on the Sim-led NPA ticket in 2018, but finished 11th in the race for one of 10 city council seats.

Director of policy Mellisa Morphy, a former Hill+Knowlton Strategies consultant and aide to ex-BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, is the third-highest paid in Sim’s office, at $88,031 a year.

The pay rate is $85,036 each for director of communications Taylor Verrall, director of legislative affairs Patrick O’Connor and director of operations Trevor Ford. All are veteran BC Liberal campaign workers who worked on the ABC Vancouver election campaign. Verrall also worked under Allam for Falcon’s campaign.

Sim also has two outreach directors, Yunxia (Chris) Qiu ($80,045) and Manuel Santos ($70,022), and a research coordinator, Conor Doherty ($60,019).

Qiu unsuccessfully ran for school board with the NPA in 2018 and was the spokesperson for the Marpole Residents Coalition that opposed the 78-suite temporary modular housing project at 59th and Heather. Santos was director of field operations for ABC after working as a regional organizer and office manager for the BC Liberals. Doherty is a former political assistant to ABC Coun. Rebecca Bligh.

The other employee listed is Billa Medhurst, an assistant inherited from previous administrations whose pay rate is $39,054.

The total for all 10 is $878,398.

Neither Allam nor Verrall responded to a request for comment.

Stewart’s last full year in office was 2021, when he spent $824,313.88 of his $1.1 million office budget on political salaries. Unlike Sim, Stewart had two chiefs of staff: Anita Zaenker ($137,904) and Neil Monckton ($126,366). The communications director was Alvin Singh ($125,567), who ran on Stewart’s Forward Together ticket, which was shut-out in the last civic election.

Combined, the trio accounted for 47 per cent of salaries in Stewart’s office.

Through Dec. 15, the date of the freedom of information request, nearly $119,000 in salaries had been paid since Oct. 7 to Sim’s 10 staff and two auxiliaries. Allam received the most at $16,698.77.

Vancouver residents are facing a five per cent property tax hike in the 2023 civic budget. In its campaign platform, ABC Vancouver promised that if it won a majority of the seats on city council, it “will limit partisan activity from mayoral office staff.”

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