Why hasn’t a new CAO been hired?

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Block Stress relief kitThe town was supposed to be hiring a new CAO, to replace John Brown, the unpopular interim CAO currently in the corner office. But although he’s supposed to be gone by September (I can hear you cheering now at that thought), that’s barely six weeks away. And we have heard nothing yet from council about his replacement. By now, a new one should have been in place. Announcements should have been made in the local media. But we’ve heard… nothing.

Smells fishy? It’s as if The Block still intends to keep Brown on, to extend his contract for a third time. I can hear you gasping in horror at the thought. I know: even for those who don’t agree with my other sentiments about this council, it’s unsettling to think on it. Brown is arguably the least popular administrator in this town, since I arrived here in 1990. Possibly the least popular person here, period. And he apparently has fewer supporters in the community than even his main idol worshipper, Brian Saunderson (whose remaining community supporters can be counted on the fingers of one hand and still have enough digits left over to flip him the bird…)

At $225,000-plus a year, Brown’s salary is more than the premier of the province is paid, and at least $50,000 and maybe even $100,000 more than another CAO could be getting. Renewing his contract has cost taxpayers at least $100,000 and perhaps double that. Not to mention the costs in legal and consulting fees he has racked up – more than $750,000 to date and more in the pipeline – to pursue his objectives. None of which have benefitted the town or our residents. So you could argue that by supporting and retaining him, The Block have wasted more than $1 million of your money so far. But take heart: they have raised your taxes three times and given themselves a raise three times, too.

I haven’t been able to glean any details about what happened to derail the recent recruitment process, except that The Block interfered with previous practices and as a result, like everything they touch, it is seriously screwed up. Seriously broken. A simple process that they turned into a disaster. Like always.

As a councillor, I was involved in three CAO recruitments, and as a reporter, I covered others for the newspaper. From 1990 to every term previous to this one, here’s how the CAO recruitment worked: a headhunter was hired. A job description was created with the help of human resources staff. Ads were placed in appropriate sites and publications. Applications were screened by the headhunter and human resources staff. Short lists of “A” candidates and “B” candidates were created. Then all of council interviewed each of the A candidates to select which – if any – deserved a second interview. Second interviews were held if potential candidates were identified, and if not, the headhunter and HR staff went back to the B list to see if anyone else was suitable. If anyone was considered suitable for the position, all of council participated, and all of council voted on whether to hire that person.

As I understand the process now, most of council has been shut out, no headhunter was hired, and senior staff – including Brown himself – were involved in assessing the applications and interviews. Basically hiring their own boss. Which is like letting your dog choose its own vet. And the deputy mayor was there too, despite his total inexperience in HR issues and his leech-like affection for Brown.

And the result: the process lurched into a wall. It failed, and no one was hired. The Block scurried back behind closed doors to discuss it. As they always do, being The Most Secretive Council Ever.

So what now? What is being done to fix the mess The Block created? Is anyone being interviewed? Are applicants being vetted? No one knows because this group has such disdain for the public interest that they never tell us anything we have a right to know. All we know from the outside is that they screwed up, and have not cleaned up their mess (fixing things is really outside their skill set: breaking them is their forte).

Like I said earlier, I suspect it’s all been a plot by The Block to retain Brown so he can continue to help direct The Block’s continuing devastation of this town’s institutions, staff and facilities, to ensure the hospital redevelopment is killed, and to throw more of your tax dollars at sole-sourced lawyers and consultants. And to make sure The Block’s many personal vendettas are completed before they get turfed out of office next year.

Collingwood deserves better.

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