Sackville hires head-hunting firm to recruit new town manager

Councillor Bill Evans

Sackville Town Council has hired a big Halifax-based, recruitment firm to search for someone to replace Phil Handrahan, the town’s chief administrative officer whose resignation takes effect in late February.

During its meeting Monday night, council passed a motion put forward by Councillor Bill Evans awarding the contract to KBRS – Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette.

The firm will be paid $25,000 plus advertising costs and other expenses.  The CAO position carries a salary range of $96,367 to $128,489.

Evans said the personnel committee reviewed nine proposals from executive recruitment firms before choosing KBRS.

“There were a number of good candidates, but we achieved consensus on this one,” Evans added before council passed his motion unanimously.

Search will cost more than last one

It appears that the search for a new CAO will cost considerably more than it did in 2012 when council awarded the contract to Municipal Human Resources Inc.

According to a report in the Sackville Tribune-Post published on October 17, 2012, the smaller New Brunswick firm — which also submitted a proposal this time around — was awarded a contract for $8,759 plus travel expenses which amounts to $9,791 plus expenses in 2019 dollars.

CAO Phil Handrahan is leaving in February

After that search, Phil Handrahan, a 30-year senior administrator with the city of Charlottetown, was appointed Sackville’s CAO in March 2013, taking up his duties in late May of that year.

KBRS, which helped Mount Allison University search for its new president in 2017/18, describes itself as “the largest search firm” in Atlantic Canada.

“Today our team of professionals is 60-strong across offices in Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Moncton and St. John’s,” the KBRS website says.

“While we remain independently owned in Atlantic Canada, we are also a part of Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge – Canada’s leading human capital company and a global leader in talent mobility, with 300 offices in more than 60 countries.”

Big vs. small

While KBRS points to what seem like the obvious advantages of a large staff and a broad-range of connections, smaller search firms, such as Toronto-based Dean Executive Search, criticize their larger rivals for the conflicts-of-interest that, they claim, can arise when head hunters work for multiple clients in similar fields.

The natural friction between competing firms, however, could explain the criticism a smaller one might level at a larger rival.

Jerome Young, a contributor to the U.S.-based Forbes business magazine, wrote in 2014 that there is merit to the argument that larger firms aren’t always the better choice. However, it’s worth noting that the magazine identified Young as a recruiter himself.

For statistics about Canada’s $15 billion recruitment industry, click here.

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2 Responses to Sackville hires head-hunting firm to recruit new town manager

  1. Brian Lane says:

    I’m not going to comment on whether it is good value or whether its too high or too low a cost for this type of staffing exercise – I simply do not know any of the information or how this particular staffing action is handled at a municipal level. Transparency by Council would seem to be something that should be expected.

    What I do know is this was approved by unanimous vote of council on November 18, 2019 with absolutely no questions by any councillor. How is this possible? The amount is roughly a minimum 2.5 times higher than last time this exercise was conducted – surely someone was concerned or had questions.. The Personnel Committee reviewed the RFPs and recommended this company – no problem that is their job. The RFP proposals were opened on November 6, and there is no posted record of any meeting public or in-camera between that date and adoption on November 18 – when and how did Council discuss this? If there was no meeting and no questions then shame on this council. This lack of transparency raises questions that need to be answered.

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  2. Sally Cunliffe says:

    The payscale is really very attractive… there must be such a large variation in the pay due to what? Offering high end pay to a great candidate? Offering ONLY $96K if there are lots of qualified applicants.. I just don’t get it. The average Canadian cannot fathom what could possibly justify these kind of numbers for a simple humble civil servant of the general public.. can they? Salary range of $96,367 to $128,489… way too much money for that job.. all I ever saw Phil deliver during council meetings was a lengthy bit of word salad.. I guess that’s enough.. but for removing my ability to ask questions on Facebook in 2015 I had already fired Phil.

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