Phelps profits from board duties

The chair of Yukon Energy's board of directors was overpaid $19,000 in 2008, says Liberal energy critic Gary McRobb.

The chair of Yukon Energy’s board of directors was overpaid $19,000 in 2008, says Liberal energy critic Gary McRobb.

Willard Phelps received $57,198 as chair of Yukon Energy’s board, according to documents filed by the public utility in its recent rate application.

Yet Phelps’ pay was supposed to have been capped at $38,000, McRobb told the legislature on Monday.

This appears to be partly true.

Cabinet capped Phelps’ salary—but only in his capacity as chair of the Yukon Development Corporation’s board, not as chair of the Yukon Energy board. Phelps holds both posts.

Yukon Energy is wholly owned by the development corporation.

Both companies have separate boards of directors. Cabinet appoints members of Yukon Development Corp. In turn, the development corporation appoints members of Yukon Energy’s board.

In practice, this means they appoint themselves. Both boards have identical memberships.

And in both cases, Phelps is chair.

As chair of the development corporation, Phelps received no more than $38,000 for 2008, said Emily Younker, a cabinet spokesperson.

No pay cap exists for Yukon Energy’s board, said spokesperson Janet Patterson.

Phelps’ pay as chair for Yukon Energy spiked in 2008. He only received $38,200 in 2007, $30,433 in 2006 and $35,733 in 2005.

In 2008, no other board member saw an increase to match Phelps’.

He received so much “because he did a lot of work for us,” said Patterson.

“It all depends on how much time he gives the corporation.”

Yukon Energy’s board met six times in 2008.

Phelps was briefly premier of the Yukon for three months in 1985 under the Progressive Conservatives. His family helped start Yukon Electrical Co.

He was said to be driving back to the Yukon from Arizona this week. He did not return a message left on his cellphone.

When McRobb sprung the subject in the legislature on Monday, Premier Dennis Fentie kept his distance.

He left Jim Kenyon, the minister responsible, to flounder as he was peppered with questions by McRobb in the legislature.

This was uncharacteristic of Fentie, who will usually tag-in to help a struggling cabinet minister.

Later, Fentie declined an interview.

Kenyon’s since left town. On Tuesday he was in Ottawa to visit a trade show.

On Monday, when McRobb insisted that “the public deserves an explanation,” Kenyon said it was a personnel matter.

“This is a very inappropriate place to have these conversations,” he said.

McRobb said he wasn’t blaming a public servant. He was accusing government of not providing proper direction and oversight of its boards.

“A rule is a rule,” said McRobb. “Even for the Yukon Party.”

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