After more than six years on the job, Phil Handrahan has submitted his resignation as the Town of Sackville’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
Mayor John Higham informed councillors in an e-mail yesterday that Handrahan’s resignation will take effect at the end of February.
Handrahan became Sackville’s CAO in May 2013 after a 30-year career with the city of Charlottetown where he had been serving as director of fiscal and development services.
Neither the mayor nor Handrahan himself have returned phone calls so the reasons for the CAO’s resignation are not clear.
Councillor Bill Evans, who serves on the town’s personnel committee, said that he’s personally not surprised at Handrahan’s departure.
“When he came here,” Evans said, “his plan was to be here for a term,” he added. “My understanding is that his intention was to be here for five years.”
Evans said he’s grateful that Handrahan, whom he described as “an experienced administrator,” actually stayed a bit longer.
“I’ve been really pleased with his professionalism and the professionalism he’s brought to the town,” Evans said, adding that Handrahan clarified the roles of town staff and council.
Evans said the personnel committee knew about Handrahan’s decision to resign well before Monday night’s council meeting when the CAO uncharacteristically chastised a member of the public and Councillor Shawn Mesheau for raising questions about how the town evaluates the events it sponsors.
During the public question period, Shelley Chase, owner of an entertainment booking agency, asked what measurement system the town uses to calculate benefits to residents versus expenditures.
She pointed out, for example, that the town spent $9,035.50 to stage a Joel Plaskett concert that attracted 180 people. Chase said revenues amounted to only $5,750 producing what she called a “net financial loss of $3,385.”
Mayor Higham objected to her use of the word “loss.”
“It’s not a loss of money, it’s an investment by the community to deliver a service that doesn’t make a profit,” Higham said. “It’s not a loss as you described it,” the mayor added. “We’ll describe that there’s a difference between the revenue and the amount of cost attached to it.”
Higham said that similar questions arise over the town’s subsidies for the rink at the Civic Centre.
CAO Handrahan then said that it’s up to council to decide on town spending for events and besides, the town is not a profit-making organization.
“It’s not whether or not we’re making money,” Handrahan said. “We don’t charge for roads, we don’t charge 100% for the arena, we don’t charge for sidewalks, we’re not trying to make a dollar on events.”
After Handrahan accused Chase of not understanding what the town does, Councillor Shawn Mesheau said it’s important to evaluate municipal services.
“As a councillor, I would hope to get the information so that when budget time comes, that an evaluation could be done to help a determination be made in regards to a line item in the budget,” Mesheau said.
Handrahan replied that all information is supplied during budget deliberations. “And you as a former member of council know that,” he said referring to Mesheau’s previous years on council.
Handrahan added that council votes on all expenditures. “So, you’re the evaluator. You ask us what to do. We’re doing what you’ve asked us to do,” he said, adding, “You ask more questions than anybody. We answer them as best as we can to try and give you the information. To make that statement suggests that we’re just going off willy nilly spending money without a care,” the CAO said to Mesheau. “That’s unfair.”
Mesheau replied that he hadn’t said that.
“You said ‘needs to be evaluated,’ you should listen to what you just said,” Handrahan replied. “You’re implying that we’re just spending money and we don’t care.”
“Wow,” Mesheau said.
“Wow is right,” Handrahan answered as their testy exchange ended.