Return of CAO enhanced by promotion of city clerk


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After seven years of doing without, St. Thomas will re-establish the position of chief administrative officer at city hall with the appointment of clerk Wendell Graves to the post, effective April 4.

Read full announcement here.

It’s a move this corner has endorsed for at least a couple of years, to the chagrin of former mayor Cliff Barwick and more than a few faithful readers who have questioned the move to promote Graves into the office without a full-scale search.

He is more than qualified for the CAO title, he’s proved himself a key asset to the city and the financial implications will benefit city ratepayers.

Graves put it best at Wednesday’s unveiling.

“There’s a lot of weight attached to the position, there’s a lot of expectations attached to the position, and I wouldn’t have wanted to even consider it without some sort of self-examination that I would be able to step up to the plate and to perform and exceed expectations — not only of city council and staff, but of the city as a whole.”

The only quarrel this corner has with Graves relates to the value of the management team concept (and not the individuals themselves) in place since previous CAO Roy Main was blown out in 2004.

Graves praises the team members, and acknowledges “me being here is a reflection of all of them . . . and all the wisdom I have gained from them.”

City Scope leans toward the assessment of author and municipal advisor George Cuff who, at the time, warned the management team concept “is an unmitigated recipe for disaster.”

Speaking to the Times-Journal in 2004, Cuff continued, “If council in their own wisdom decides to release the CAO that’s their decision and I would never try to interfere with that. But the position is absolutely essential.”

DOWNTOWN DOIN’S

Changes in the city hall office of the Downtown Development Board.

Karen Gordon, DDB administrator for several years, is out of the picture as of this week, which prompted a call over to board chairman Dan Muscat for details.

“We just had our administration person leave, she obviously went to another job, so now we’re full volunteers here,” Muscat explained.

So, did she leave voluntarily to pursue another employment opportunity?

“She must have been, yes,” added Muscat, “although we didn’t know that.

“We had changed a job description for her, we had reduced her hours from a full-time to a part-time position, still keeping her at the same rate of pay. We were doing that on a trial basis, but I guess it wasn’t good for her and so she’s chosen to move on.

“We have chosen to do as much as we can as a volunteer group to save some dollars.”

Muscat hasn’t ruled out the possibility of bringing someone else on board 10-15 hours a week, the ideal opportunity for a student on a co-op placement.

The situation is not cause for alarm on the viable status of the DDB, assures Muscat.

“As a new board we are certainly making sure we are going to become a very active board in the downtown. And, spend the money wisely and in the right places and make our improvements there.”

We’ll continue this conversation with Muscat next week and zero in on the board’s relationship with Iron Horse Festival organizers.

STRIKE THREE?

Is it three strikes and you’re out for treasurer Bill Day?

Monday night, city council will deal with a report requesting the hiring of a program coordinator for the parks and recreation department, at an annual cost of about $45,000.

If approved it will be the third new hire this year for the city, over the protestations of Day.

While there is a sound case for the addition of new staff members in environmental services and Ontario Works, the cost benefit analysis submitted by Rob Lilbourne, supervisor of recreation facilities, would get a failing grade in any high school economics class.

The numbers appear to be pulled from thin air to substantiate including a program coordinator in the 2011 budget.

The position may be fully warranted at some point in the future, but for this year, council would do well to heed Day’s warning.

“Due to prevailing budget pressures and given the state of the local economy, it is my recommendation that in 2011 no additional staff be added in any civic department.

“In addition,” advises Day, “in my view council should not support additional staff of any board, corporation, association or agency funded in whole or in part by property taxes, rates or user fees.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I just don’t see it as the role of the premier to lecture people on doing their laundry earlier in the day to save money.”

On his brief visit to the St. Thomas area Tuesday, Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak continued his attack on Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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