December 25, 2013

Council gives CAO vote of confidence

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town Council has given Chief Administrative Officer Kathryn Ironmonger a vote of confidence, and attempted to set the record straight about events that led to announcement of her promotion last June.

The CAO had requested the support after months of conflict between herself and Mayor Lou Maieron. At the December 17 council meeting, the public waited for three hours while the politicians and staff met privately with the Town lawyer.

They hammered out a motion, as well as a statement that the mayor was obliged to read out in public, even though he disagreed with sections of it. This is in the wake of the recent report by an Integrity Commissioner, who found that the mayor had violated the Code of Ethics, saying he had bullied staff.

Council previously accepted the recommendation that Maieron’s salary be forfeited for one month, and has now agreed with his request that the money be donated to the Food Bank.

At the December 3 meeting, the mayor offered a vigorous defense of his positions,  rejecting all the allegations. Some of the controversy swirls about the June 25 meeting, at which Ironmonger was appointed. The mayor had wanted other candidates considered before hiring internally.

He walked out in protest from that meeting, arguing that it was improperly held under council rules. His request that the process for hiring a CAO should be discussed publicly at that meeting was placed at the end of the agenda, after the hiring. Ironmonger said she followed proper protocol in preparing the agenda, since the mayor’s initiative was a reconsideration of something that had already been decided in closed session.

Here is part of the December 17 statement, with details that were previously confidential:

“Council offered the CAO/Town Manager position to the Acting CAO on June 4th, which was accepted. Mrs. Ironmonger requested a written employment agreement be signed before her appointment was publicly announced. Council was prepared to ratify the agreement at the June 18th meeting, however, Council agreed to defer the item at the request of the Mayor to the June 25th meeting with the understanding that it would be ratified during that meeting.”

On June 25, Councillor Barb Tocher said to Maieron, “you're pretending you don't know what's going on and you do – you are part of it." Maieron replied that he did know what was going on, but that he was acting to make the process “open, transparent and accountable”. Councillors had legal advice that they were not obliged to discuss the process in public.

Here is Councillor Tocher’s motion that was approved December 17:

“Council hereby passes a ‘Vote of Confidence’ that the CAO/Town Manager is fulfilling the roles and responsibilities of the position to the satisfaction of Council; and that Council further confirms that they have confidence in their staff as a whole.

“Council adopts a ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ in an attempt to take all reasonable steps to ensure that staff has a safe work environment from harassment and bullying; and that Council will not tolerate unacceptable conduct; and that Council agrees to implement the recommended solutions outlined in the Closed Session Report presented by the Joint Health and Safety Committee to address the hazard.”

No details of that report were made public.

Regarding the legality of the June 25 meeting, council asserted in the new statement that the meeting was properly scheduled, with normal notice provided. The agenda was emailed to the media and posted on the Town website.

“Council directed staff to add additional items to the scheduled meeting in order to have items addressed in a timely manner because only one meeting was scheduled for the following month,” the statement said.

“Council has the authority to add items, approve and/or amend the agenda, which is something Council does on a regular basis.”