"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Tuesday 25 August 2015


Continuing reading the news report on the interim CAO, I was diverted by a rendition of a line of thought from the Mayor. It sparked a previous post.

I read the CAO item on line but hard copy is needed for reference. A monitor is somewhat ethereal. Butterfly comes to mind. Flitting here,flitting there,seldom settling anywhere. 

Scott Somerville, Aurora's last interim CAO  told me, five years in one place is  average for a CAO.  We had lunch on the last day of his contract and talked about municipal hiring patterns. Somerville was many years a municipal clerk before becoming CAO .

Authority in a municipal administration is like walking a tight rope. Politicians need to be seen to be in charge. People expect it. 

Municipal Clerks are  bound by legislation.  The  purpose  is to ensure Provincial law and regulations are observed.  A Clerk allowed to do his job wields considerable influence and control. 

Tension is inevitable. Nifty footwork is handy. Eminence Gris is the salient feature.

Mr Moyle's terms of reference for CAO  are similar to municipal clerk; except a clerk is certified. A CAO is not. 

 From an executive position of the Ontario Municipal Association,Mr Moyle has discerned Aurora does not have social problems  like other towns, has " a reasonable healthy financial situation". He observes the town is "blessed with good quality staff" His own background is land use planning. 

His task is to work with Council  over "several weeks " on credentials for  the CAO  position and  prepare a structure  to be approved by the incoming CAO. 

The last CAO re-organized within weeks of arrival. Didn't wait to see how things were before changing them. The re- organization was  regularly re-organized after that to suit exigencies. Things didn't really function well any time since. 

Up close and personal, I observed no improvement. Changes reduced  influence of the Clerk and authority of the Director of Leisure Services .

Numerous responsibilities were transferred to Chief Financial Officer, Director of Environment and Infrastructure and  Chief Building Oficial. None were long-term employees at the time nor did they possess required credentials for the new responsibilities.

The CAO came from York Region where he was manager of data base in the  office of the CAO

Impact of the changes was ongoing. 

An order prohibited staff  from speaking to Councillors. All queries were to be directed to the director to determine within days if and how  and when they would be answered.

The most dramatic shift  was untrammeled power to the Office of Mayor. Except for the in- group, Council was not in the picture.

Lawyers hired,staff  fired, Conduct Code approved, Integrity  Commissioner hired and fired almost , but not quite, before his first decision.

He found a complaint against a Councillor, written by  a lawyer, paid for by the town, on  behalf of Councilor Al Wilson, signed by Mayor and four Councillors and published in every venue possible was made for purely political purpose. It was dismissed. 

Best efforts were made to bury the decision.The Municipal Clerk decided to take early retirement the day she handed it over to the person complained about. Nine months previously the clerk had left a secure position and signed a  five year contract with the Town of Aurora.

A P.R. firm was retained  and paid from town resources  via legal invoice to avoid publicity, to mitigate bad  publicity  caused  by the Integrity Commisioner's decision.

There were other skirmishes. Too  many to list.

 A probationary employee was pressured to file a complaint of harassment against a  Councillor old enough to be his grandmother with whom he had no personal contact. The Chief Financial Officer hired over a coffee in a donut shop, in his duplicate role as Human Resouraces manager, processed the complaint at town expense.

Police were brought on site  to measure threat. Windows  in the Mayor's office were obscured for protection. The windows are on the second floor with nothing overlooking. 

Litigation was launched  and processed by the corporation against three residents of the town for anonymous criticism of the Mayor published on a blog. The complaint was dismissed  as designed to silence participation. 

Eventually there was an election.  Hard fought. The Mayor and others were replaced. 

Unfortunately,the circumstances that allowed unbridled power in the Mayor's office did not change The new-in -every -sense-of the word Mayor was content with the situation. He knew no different. 

Hirings, firings, shifting responsibilities and the passing parade of lawyers and consultants continued unabated. 

Fantastic schemes were floated and exploded at horrendous  expense in time and  resources. 

After eight remarkable years the CAO has departed . 

In his own words ,the  new interim will spend the next several weeks working with Council developing a candidate profile for the ideal CAO. Mr. Morley outlines all qualities required in the news story.

Also planned, work on what a structure would look like "if, in fact, there are changes to be made"

Mr. Moyle has stated the town has no problems, is in a favourable financial position with "good quality staff" and an involved community. What changes can he contemplate in the circumstance?

After reviewing the story, an obvious question arises; what is the purpose of an "interim " CAO? 

Interims have been appointed before. The Chief FInancial Officer's interim appointment morphed to permanent in contravention of the Municipal Act which requires recruitment.

A communication manager was  hired by the same means. 

How many others ? We shall never know. A Berlin Wall was erected between Council and administration. Only the select were allowed to peer beyond.

Well ...y'know...when logic fails to present...speculation is rife. It would surprise me not a whit if this 
"Interim" CAO turned out to be permanent and hand-picked. 


Anonymous said...

I can tell you there are problems.

I will make an appointment with the new CAO and share my horrific experiences of harassment and intimidation.

This was brought to the previous CAO attention.

I feel it was well buried and now the soil needs to be turned.

I will update you if said meeting can be obtained.

Anonymous said...

When respect is lost. there really is no way to regain it. I do not believe that loss of respect would be as strong a reason to remove someone from office as the visceral dislike that drove the last election . But it is there and I am afraid it is growing beyond the town hall.

Anonymous said...

It is growing 8:52 as people are being "black-balled" like one service club does with a single vote nay outing someone.
Sad but its growing in our town and examples exposed in Hamilton etc.

Anonymous said...

" reasonable healthy financial situation "
condemnation with faint praise
I suspect this quote was made prior to the current market upheaval.

Anonymous said...

If hand picked it would be somewhat like one of our churches looking to fill a position.

The person who wrote the job requirements and who was hired were one in the same.

The Farmers Market had a similar swing at the plate.

Put an idea of raises and bonus for staff(Yes the market has paid staff)on the table.

Get a motion on the table quick to approve and leave the executive and take the paid position and the raise the following year.

Yes,this is all real folks and happening all over our little town of "Good Company".

Anonymous said...

"His task is to work with Council over several weeks "on credentials" for the CAO position and prepare a structure to be approved by the incoming CAO."

This really does not make much sense. Are "credentials" the same as previous job experience? If so, why not say so in simple precise English?

If the interim CAO is to prepare a "structure" for the approval by the incoming CAO, then the the incomer presumably will have had no input into this structure. Or will he or she have the right to modify this "structure" as he or she sees fit in order to allow him or her to better perform as CAO?

The process seems flawed.

A qualified candidate for the CAO position should certainly have the authority to make changes that will enhance the smooth operation of town staff, being cognizant of the fact that he or she will have to work hand in glove with department directors to accomplish this.

Anonymous said...

It's a long time until the next election. In the meantime, those who view the council as " easy pickings " will take advantage.
Can't say that I blame them - it's human nature. Unfortunately, the rest of us are going to be contributing.

Anonymous said...

We have to wait and see.
Certainly the process is going to have been set up by the departed CAO.
Council would not have had a clue how to go about it. And some on council would be more clueless than others.

Anonymous said...

Bits of the Auroran are up.

Anonymous said...

The headline on the front page of today's The Globe and Mail reads: "Saudi arms deal contingent on secrecy"

This is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, although the characters in the fable make more sense than those in real life.

Possibly no one reads the front page anymore.

Anonymous said...

If anyone has a use for walnuts ( I think they are black northern ), they are coming down in town. Just do not throw them on the BBQ or in your fireplace.

Anonymous said...

Brock & Alison have good articles.

Anonymous said...

Spending is going to have to be quite different everywhere since the economy has face-planted.

Anonymous said...

The Saudi arms deal would have been better buried in the want ads.

The question is who wants it more, them or us?

Anonymous said...

And this is why Evelyn may be right. He probably will become the permanent CAO

Anonymous said...

Like what is Mr Moyle going to say ?
That the town has to be really careful and that what he has seen of their spending habits is unsettling ?

Anonymous said...