With Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey moving on to a new job in Shelburne at the end of the month, council considered their options at the February 12 meeting, and they have opted to delay hiring a new CAO until after this year's municipal election in October, and in the interim they will appoint an internal acting CAO.
Municipal staff provided council with five options to consider, including the immediate recruitment of a new CAO conducted by a hired consultant, immediate recruitment conducted in-house by municipal staff, the appointment of an external interim CAO while a consultant conducts recruitment, appointing an external interim CAO until after the municipal election, and the appointment of an internal acting CAO until after the municipal election.
During council's discussion, Councillor Tony Bell added a sixth option for council to consider – not having a CAO acting, interim or otherwise until after the October election.
“I have a copy of the Municipal Act, and I would like to bring forward to council for their consideration that in Section 228 in reference to clerk, it says a municipality shall appoint a clerk. That is something that we must and shall do,” Bell told council. “And in another section it talks about the treasurer, Section 286, the municipality shall appoint a treasurer. Must have it, we've got it, we have these two particular seats. Section 229 refers to a CAO. It says a municipality may appoint a chief administration officer. I move that we entertain an option number six; we have a treasurer and we have a clerk, and according to the Municipal Act, these two can run the Municipality of Meaford under the authority granted by the Municipal Act.”
While Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield seconded Bell's motion for the purposes of putting the suggestion on the table for discussion, Bell did not find support for his proposal among his fellow councillors.
Several councillors expressed concern about overloading current staff with the responsibilities of the CAO position, and they expressed a desire to avoid staff burnout.
Complicating matters further is that 2018 is a municipal election year, and council was told that it can be more difficult to find qualified CAO candidates in an election year.
“There is some anecdotal evidence that the pool of candidates for a senior municipal job becomes more limited as an election draws near. If this is the case, it is likely to be because candidates are uncertain of the nature of the Council that they will be working with, particularly if the membership changes significantly,” council was advised in the Clerk's report.
Of the five options presented to council by Clerk Matt Smith council overwhelmingly supported option five, which defers the hiring of a new CAO until after the municipal election, which would also avoid any 'lame duck' issues that could surface should more than two current members of council not run for re-election in October. A council cannot appoint an officer while in the lame duck period, and given the time required to conduct a recruitment initiative, it's possible that the effort could be thwarted if council enters a 'lame duck' period this summer. Council was advised that the recruitment process could take 18-21 weeks.
“As Council is aware, there are a series of restrictions that are placed on Council should it be determined that the Council is in a ‘Lame Duck’ situation. One of these restrictions is that a lame duck Council is unable to appoint an officer of the Municipality, which includes the CAO,” council was advised by the Clerk. “In 2018, the earliest that Council can be determined to be ‘lame duck’ is on July 30, 2018, the working day after the close of nominations for the 2018 election.”
Mayor Barb Clumpus told council that she would be reluctant to avoid filling the position.
“I would be very loathe to put on any more on the shoulders of our existing staff who have been working very well together, and will continue to do so,” Clumpus told council. “I really caution that we need that single point of contact, that single point of accountability going forward.”
The majority of council agreed and voted in favour of option five which will see an acting CAO appointed internally until after the election.
“Such an appointment would commence immediately, but would require realignment of resources and additional support to the senior staff,” the Clerk advised in his report to council.