The Current’s response to Mayor Love

Opinion

As reported by The Current, at the Council meeting on March 21 2018 the Mayor took umbrage at my opinion piece entitled “MV is not a CAO-friendly environment!” (Click HERE to read it.) She took particular offence, and indeed described as “defamatory”, the following passage in that opinion piece:

“Yet according to the statement made by the Mayor at yesterday’s meeting, the same Councillors sat in judgment on him and found him wanting.”

Note that this makes it clear that this was an opinion I arrived at based on a statement made by the Mayor. Because of the events that preceded it (listed below), this conclusion was inevitable as the Mayor put up a veritable signpost pointing to it.

Feb. 21                Minutes of the Special Council Meeting record that the following matter was discussed:

“1. CAO/Clerk – Performance Appraisal.”

Feb. 21                 CAO Robertson’s last day of employment.

Feb. 28                 As reported by The Current on March 1, at the Finance & Administration Committee Meeting held on February 28, the Mayor stated: “Mr. Robertson is no longer with the municipality. I will be providing an update to the citizens and taxpayers of the Madawaska Valley at the Regular Council meeting on March 5th. Until then, I have no comment.”

Mar. 5                   The Mayor said: At the Special Council Meeting on February 21st (i.e. the CAO/Clerk’s Performance Appraisal) the probationary employment of Mr. Robertson, CAO/Clerk, came to an end.” (emphasis mine) She then went on to invite “members of the public and press who may have questions regarding general employment practices at the Township to review the municipality’s corporate policies and procedures.”

Mar. 5                   The Current published the Mayor’s statement as well as the following extract from the Township’s policies that she invited us to inspect: “Permanent appointment as an employee of the Township of Madawaska Valley is conditional upon satisfactory performance during the formal probationary period.” (emphasis mine)

The Mayor’s reference to Robertson’s “probationary employment” in the context of discussing why he was no longer an employee was clearly intentional. Equally clearly, she was steering interested parties to the relevant policy reproduced above. All that Love needed to have said to avoid inaccurate conclusions (if such be the case) was that Robertson’s employment with the Township had ended; no more, no less.

Love also objected to my opinion that “an arguable case can be made that the township has in fact been headless since the current council was elected”. Readers can make up their own minds by reading minutes, or listening to recordings, of meetings. However, I was reliably informed that it was not long before township staff started referring to committee meetings as “committee beatings” – enough said.

It is a pity that the Mayor did not respond to the overriding theme of my opinion piece. Although I have no doubt that she, as she stated, has worked very hard, that misses the point. Many would prefer that she worked very hard at being the CEO of a council which limits itself to the role proscribed for it in the Municipal Act.

For these reasons, The Current does not accept that there is justification for any retraction or apology as demanded by the Mayor. Unfortunately she also used her statement to question the journalistic standards which The Current has espoused. As publisher, I do not accept this but rather view it as confirmation that Council had become spoiled by the less incisive media coverage that it had enjoyed prior to our arrival on the scene.

 

Roger Paul, Publisher

March 29 2018

5 Comments

  1. Kay McCabe

    The Current is preparing articles aimed at familiarizing prospective candidates with the role of council? I would ask what makes the Current so experienced that they feel they can educate anyone on what the role of council is? Have the owners ever been an elected officials in any capacity? Have you been elected officials in a small rural community? Let me help you broaden your narrow interpretation of the role of council in Ontario. Section 224 of the municipal act states; It is the role of council,
    a. to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality
    b. to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality
    c. to determine which services the municipality provides
    d. to ensure that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of council
    (d.1) to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality
    e. to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality and
    f. to carry out the duties of council under this or any other act

    I would further ask the owners of the Current what their experience is in running a so called community “newspaper”

    • Mark Woermke

      Nice to hear from you again Kay. Your regurgitation of the Municipal Act is helpful. However, where does it say council should spend its time micromanaging the day to day business of the township? As for experience, do taxpayers require experience as municipal councillors to follow, question and comment upon the words of their elected representatives whose decisions spend their money and effect the living conditions in their community? As far as I know, only two members of MV Council had any municipal experience prior to the 2014 election. As for newspaper experience, Inez Boehme took on This Week with no previous newspaper experience, as did Phil and Helen Conway, Hans Wetzel and current Valley Gazette owner Michel Lavigne.

    • The Current

      Thank you for your comment. It appears that your interpretation of the opinion article in question is selective. The article clearly identifies an authoritative source for its premise concerning the respective roles of council and CAO/staff. In the interests of brevity, other authoritative sources were not included. Also in the interests of brevity, the wording of S.224 was omitted but thank you for now publishing that. However, in order to give effect to the responsibilities listed, councils are expected to limit themselves to policy/strategy considerations. Or are you seriously suggesting that S.224 justifies five members of council spending countless hours, sometimes spread over several meetings, on administrative minutiae? To put it another way, if you are a ratepayer are you content that they do so while a CAO is being paid $100,000 per year to perform that very role?
      As for your comments concerning the “owners’ experience”, please refer to the About Us section of The Current. Also, if you have read other articles in The Current, you should be aware that we rely on contributors who have experience or expertise in the areas discussed.

  2. Terry Newcombe

    So have I got this straight? First the Current reported that “according to the statement made by the Mayor at yesterday’s meeting, the same Councillors sat in judgment on him and found him wanting.” Then the Mayor asked for a retraction, saying she made no such statement. Now the Current has explained that, while she didn’t literally state that “the same Councillors sat in judgment on him and found him wanting”, she stated that his employment was probationary. And because township policies state that permanent employment “is conditional upon satisfactory performance during the formal probationary period”, it is fair for the Current to conclude that the Mayor’s reference to probation implies that the Council found the former CEO’s performance wanting.

    Did I get that right? I agree with the implication, it makes logical sense. But I feel that the Current’s original report, “according to the statement made by the Mayor” is stretching it. I think the Mayor was intentionally avoiding saying that the Council found the former CEO’s performance wanting. As such, I would have written the report as “Reading between the lines of the statement made by the Mayor at yesterday’s meeting, the same Councillors sat in judgment on him and found him wanting.”

    What’s the difference between “according to” and “reading between the lines”? Risk of litigation and bad feelings. Ratepayers want neither. We want our media to be investigative and thorough, but not inflammatory — not if that increases our taxes and worsens the working atmosphere at Township Hall.

    Here’s a constructive question. The Current reported that many would prefer “a council which limits itself to the role proscribed for it in the Municipal Act.” Can someone clarify that, please? That would help Council in understanding where it has gone wrong and what it can do differently in the future. Thank you.

    • The Current

      Thank you for your comment. In answer to your final question, please refer to the opinion itself, particularly the discussion of the separation of roles between Council and CAO/staff. You might also refer to the comment to the article by Susan Ellis, who knows of what she speaks. CAOs receive extensive training and are paid substantial remuneration to perform all the administrative functions derived from their Councils’ policy and strategy decisions. As this is an election year, The Current is preparing articles aimed at familiarizing prospective candidates with these roles and the requirements to run for office.

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