MV is not a CAO-friendly environment!

Opinion

Last week I attended the Finance & Administration Committee meeting. After I sat down, I was presented with the stark evidence that the Township was once again headless, this being the empty chair usually occupied by the CAO. As the front page story in last week’s Eganville Leader reminded us, this “continues a pattern of a series of dismissals in the Township.”

Given my observations of Mr. Robertson’s demeanour over the course of his short engagement, his departure did not come as a surprise. The pained and resigned expressions on his face spoke volumes as he sat through meeting after meeting, forced to listen to other much less qualified people while they appropriated his responsibilities. For this reason, an arguable case can be made that the Township has in fact been “headless” since the current Council was elected.

Last November, dispirited after sitting through yet another unnecessarily protracted and inefficient Council meeting, I sent him an email about the lack of any activity to get the Railway Station ready for next summer’s tourist season. I started off by saying:

“Dear Doug,

This afternoon our Council spent 45 minutes discussing the proposed job description for a “part time facilities coordinator” for a recreation centre. This followed, we had been told, five previous occasions when the subject had been considered by Council either at committee or at full council. In fact I attended the Nov 8th meeting and recorded that Council engaged in “20 minutes of bickering” about the same subject. Seriously, you could not make this stuff up!”

This was by no stretch of the imagination an isolated incident. This Council from the start seemed determined to micromanage as much of the operational side of things that they could get their hands on. It is true to say some councillors are guiltier than others. In recent weeks we have had to sit through interminable discussions about such matters as the wording of a part-time job description, the hiring of a junior accounting clerk, where to relocate rocks in Combermere and minor complaints about facilities’ use.

By so acting, Council is flouting the role that it was elected to perform and that the Municipal Act requires it to perform. S.224 enacts the “Role of Council.” In short, the Act identifies its responsibilities as being essentially limited to matters of policy and strategy.

A 2017 publication entitled The Evolving Role of City Managers and Chief Administrative Officers (published by The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance) describes the respective roles of Council and the CAO as follows:

“The principle underlying the CAO model is a separation of policy-making (by council) from the development and implementation of the policy (by the CAO and staff).”

It appears that this Council either does not understand or chooses to ignore this separation of roles. However well-meaning their intentions may be, it is behaviour that is counter-productive and wasteful. It brings to mind the old expression about “keeping a dog and barking too.”

Mr. Robertson, when he was hired after a nine-month search, was trumpeted as being a coup for the Township. This is because he brought 25 years of experience including strategy development and implementations, business and financial planning, contract management and applying legislation in a municipal environment. How galling it must have been, therefore, for him to try to do his job while listening to members of Council floundering around in areas that fall exclusively within the responsibilities of a Chief Administrative Officer and his staff.

Yet according to the statement made by the Mayor at yesterday’s meeting, these same Councillors sat in judgment on him and found him wanting. It may well have been the case that Mr. Robertson, despite his experience, did not perform satisfactorily. However, it begs the question, was he given a sporting chance?

22 Comments

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  5. Pat Scott

    I would just like to point out that the Valley Gazette and the Eganville Leader are all reporting similar stories of the goings on in council. From what I can tell the stories in the Current are based on fact and the information is backed up by the minutes of the municipal meetings. The world of talent that are qualified CAO’s is fairly tightly knit and a limited pool, none of whom already are employed at the municipality. In a span of about 5 or 6 years we have had 3 CAO’s, 2 of who, I believe, were terminated with or without cause I don’t know, but non the less they were terminated. Word travels fast and this is what will make the talent search hard.

  6. btconway

    Great op-ed! An essential read for anyone in the area who cares about who’s spending their local tax dollars and how rationally that is being done. Bravo for The Current’s commitment to quality, socially-responsible journalism!

    • Sean Scott

      Seriously? Socially responsible journalism? The township is going to be looking for another CAO and this article will come up when they are researching the area. Now please tell me, who would want to come work here after seeing this? I understand reporting news and the facts, but must there be such a negative spin on it? We as a community should be working together to make improvements and making the area more desirable for people to come work here. Not scare them away.

  7. Janet

    Once again this “paper” puts out another base-less and fact-less article. FACT this “newspaper” is a clique who only represents maybe 10% of this communities OPINION. Opinion being the key word here folks. Grow-up, this is worse than teenagers high school drama.

    • The Current

      Thank you for reading The Current. It would be helpful to our readers if you would identify your reasons for saying this article is “base-less and fact-less”. It is based on information that is all a matter of public record. Please note that, in future, The Current will not publish comments that do not contain the full name of the contributor. This is to avoid confusion with other members of the community who have the same first name.

  8. Victoria Lutz

    Great read! I am constantly in shock of the actions / non actions of this council. Hopefully there will be qualified and competent candidates to vote for this fall.

  9. John Doe

    First off the article is based on many assumptions that you may be misled on or are just ignorant too. Doug had no municipal experience, other than the head of Ottawa city parking. Yes a division of municipal government but in no way related to running a township or following a code of municipal acts and regulations. Secondly, Doug an outsider of the community, was not brought in to harass several long standing good employees. Open your eyes people.

    • Don Webb

      What the….?? Really – John Doe?? Yes do keep your eyes open folks – but lets try and keep our brains in the “ON” position too. Or at least on Stand By. “No municipal experience” …WTF??

      • Sean Scott

        Keep your brains in the “on position”? You must be part of the community that bad mouths council on every decision they make, all while doing nothing to better the community. Doug had done nothing beneficial for the township in his time there. The expression on Doug’s face that Roger talks about in the article above were directly related to the lack of interest and understanding that Doug had about his position in the township. All of the people commenting here don’t realize the quality staff at the township that go above and beyond daily. You are all so short sighted on councils shortcomings that you throw the whole township under the bus just to get you two minutes of internet fame and shallow opinions seen by others.

    • Liam Gansterer

      This is taken from the Mayor’s announcement when the Township hired Doug Robertson as its CAO:
      “Mr. Robertson is an experienced municipal government administrator with over 25 years of diverse service. Throughout his career he has demonstrated extensive skills including strategy development and implementation, business and financial planning, contract management, and applying legislation in a municipal environment. As Executive Officer to the CAO in the City of Waterloo, he provided direct policy development, project management and change management expertise to the CAO and Corporate Management Team. In addition to other post-secondary education, Mr. Robertson holds a Master of Business Administration degree with concentrations in organizational effectiveness and marketing. ”

      http://www.madawaskavalley.ca/public_notices.php?id=437

  10. Susan Ellis

    Well written. And well cited. Councilors, however (well)intentioned, (mis)informed, (un)educated, and/or (dis)passionate about their community are NOT allowed to direct the work of staff. Period.

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