Ciao CAO

They are saying good bye to another CAO in HRM. And the severance is $300,00 according to reports.

English was making $190,000 it says.  [Consider that Wolfville’s CAO makes more than half of that for our little town of 4,000!] The payout is staggering. But it is easy to spend other people’s money – ours.

Sue Uteck told a radio talk show that English’s “standard employee contract” provides the former chief administrative officer with a going-away lump of cash.

Question 1: What is a”standard employee contract”  for a CAO? Each municipality is different. It is a one person, stand alone position, which should be negotiated every time. Is the “standard” contract line just to avoid answering questions  about how much he is getting paid, how much his benefits are and how much is negotiated for severance?

Question 2: Is is “standard” to let a CAO go for over reaching his position? It was reported earlier that Mr. English chastised Council in public for not giving him and his staff enough respect. We said to ourselves at the time – By golly, gosh, here’s another CAO forgetting that he works for the elected officials and the electorate, however difficult that may be.  The CAO does not chair meetings of Council. He is there at Council’s pleasure to answer questions. He is an employee. He is supposed to be professional.  It is not professional to make such statements in public. You will remember that our CAO, at a Council meeting, chastised residents, who bothered to take the time to come out, for smirking.

Question 3: Why is Council so evasive and secretive? The mayor didn’t want to say in public what they were spending to let English go and his contract is under wraps too. If it is standard, why not?

Marilla Stephenson points out.

The CAO contract has never been made public, for no good reason, as the CAO is the only person employed directly by council itself. All the other employees come under the management of the CAO. [emph ours]

It is required by the Municipal Government Act that decisions of Council be public, not made behind closed doors.

At an in-camera meeting of council this week, the decision-making process bordered on the absurd and questions should be asked about whether council’s actions on voting not to renew English’s contract are even legal. [emph ours]

Does this lapse sound  a little familiar?  Should it take FOIPOP or a court case to find out ? We suppose HRM Council will say – “It’s in the budget” . In any case, as we have said before, every public servant whose salary is over a certain amount should be disclosed as it is in other provinces.

Question 4: Marilla asks this one –

So another important question should be asked. So is the problem with the CAOs, or with the leadership at city hall?

Could be both Marilla, could be both. But there seems to be some confusion in everyone’s mind who the leaders are supposed to be.

“We’re heading into a budget year looking to cut another $10 million, and we’re absolutely (leaderless), once again, at city hall,” said Uteck.

No, the Council is supposed to lead;  the CAO can advise but he is an employee. He follows policy and directions, or should.

The authority that is supposed to come with the CAO’s job is constantly being undermined by micro-management and divide-and-conquer politics.

That seems to be the line. Residents have heard it here too. Don’t investigate too much, leave it to the CAO. This is supposed to be reassuring. It is not.

The authority does NOT lie with the CAO. It lies with our representatives. Councils are not there to be by-passed. If they are not “herdable” that is understandable. It means they are reflecting the varied interests and opinions of the townspeople. Taking the politics out of the municipality is removing democracy from the municipality. Councillors who aren’t doing a good job can be voted out. That’s is how it is supposed to work.  It is not so easy for the electorate to fire a CAO pulling strings in the back room.

We would prefer to be run by “unherdable seagulls” in the open than one “expert” behind a closed door somewhere.

So, our message to HRM Council. You are quite within your rights to let Mr. English go. But when you hire a new CAO negotiate the individual contract and be frugal in the terms. Be open about those terms with the electorate. And remember that you are in control so you had better get your act together or you too will be looking for another job come election time.

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2 responses to “Ciao CAO

  1. I wait and wait and wait for Council to pay me to go away. What am I doing wrong?

    More seriously, I hear that HRM also has a Deputy CAO — don’t blink, or we’ll probably get one of those too…. Bureaucrats begat bureaucrats, beware!

    • We do already. We used to just have a town clerk. Now we have a CAO and a town clerk (with a different title). But we get your point. Soon the deputy will have a deputy.