Collingwood’s CAO was offered an extension of his contract at town council Monday night, but it wasn’t pretty.
There has been a split opinion on council as to whether to extend CAO John Brown’s contract or to begin the search for a permanent executive manager.
However there seemed to be a bigger split in what Mayor Sandra Cooper and Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson think is fair play.
The two squared off over Saunderson’s motion two weeks ago as a notice of motion to extend John Brown’s contract by a year.
Mayor Cooper, reading from notes, accused the deputy mayor and some members of council of pushing her aside and not affording her office the level of respect and engagement it requires.
"People who know me would suggest that I am a consensus builder and try, whenever possible, to avoid creating a caustic environment, sometimes at a fault," said Cooper. "This long-standing approach creates an atmosphere where some individuals feel they can aggressively push me aside or not engage my office with the opinion that there will be little consequence."
Mayor Cooper felt that the CAO’s contract should have been discussed in-camera before bringing it before the public.
Deputy Mayor Saunderson didn’t see it that way.
"We are doing our business where you can all see it," Saunderson said, addressing the public. "If you can point me to one aspect of the procedural bylaw that somehow I might have fallen aside or astray of, I’d like you to point it out."
Tension continued to grow between the two as Cooper continued to air her grievances while Saunderson tried to rebut.
"We have chosen a different path that is divisive and shows a complete, in my view, disrespect for the mayor’s office," she said. "Hopefully, once a decision is made, we will put this matter behind us and enter into a new era of co-operation and respect."
As Saunderson continued to protest, the mayor refused to give him the floor.
"This is going under objection," he said. "I have made a point of privilege that you refuse to rule on. You went ahead and accused myself and other members of this council of disrespect with process."
Cooper ended the conversation by calling for a recess of nearly 40 minutes.
In the end, council voted 5-4 to offer Brown an extension of his contract, which will run to October, 2017. Cooper and councillors Tim Fryer, Mike Edwards and Kevin Lloyd voted against the extension, while Saunders, Kathy Jeffery, Deb Doherty, Cam Ecclestone and Bob Madigan voted for the motion.
Brown was brought in on an interim basis in July, 2013, where council approved a two-year contract in September of that year. His contract was extended again in early 2015 that was to cover the role until October, 2016.
Councillor Mike Edwards spoke against the motion, feeling that there was greater savings to be had searching for a new executive manager.
"My comments aren’t meant to be divisive, but in the best interest of the community," Edwards said. "I think that it is time that council appointed a full time CAO and not one on contract that seems to continue and continue and paying the premium rate."
Edwards argued that with a search for an applicant expected to take six or seven months, that the timeline for hiring the new person would fit nicely with the fall, giving the new person time to become conversant with Collingwood’s policies and processes by the time the new council is appointed in 2018.
Tim Fryer followed that point by saying that when he agreed to the last extension of Brown’s contract, it was with the understanding that council would begin the search for a permanent CAO.
"At the time I stated that it would be best to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the extension and to seek out whether a strong successor candidate could be found and convinced to join our team," said Fryer. "Perhaps if the process had been followed, a successor would now be involved and maintain continuity of the important CAO work at hand."
The question of salaries as well proved to be a sore point.
Brown’s salary for 2015 was $225,000 which includes a retirement fund (OMERS) cash payout.
Saunderson listed neighbouring communities whose CAO’s all earn approximately the same as Brown, excluding the OMERS retirement fund, while others, Edwards included had his own list of neighbouring CAO’s who come in significantly less.
Saunderson cited communities such as New Tecumseth, Innisil and Bradford-West Gwillimbury as paying their CAO’s between $192,000 to $194,000, while Mike Edwards listed The Blue Mountains, Meaford and Orillia ranging from $151,000 to $167,000 as identified in the most recent Sunshine list released by the province.
Pensions paid by employers is not identified on the list.
Salary ranges, generally, are based on experience.