Daniel Allain, the provincial minister of local government reform has agreed to meet with Mayor Mesheau to discuss the hiring of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the new Town of Tantramar, according to a e-mail message from his office that says a meeting “will be arranged.”[efn_note] The message from the minister’s office says: “We have just received their letter and a meeting will be arranged with the mayor as per his request to meet.”[/efn_note]
Allain was responding to a letter from Mesheau asking for a meeting that would include other members of town council to discuss the recommendation that Dorchester CAO Jennifer Borne be appointed to the top Tantramar administrative post over the only other candidate, Sackville CAO Jamie Burke.
“I am writing to inform you of Town Council’s serious concerns at the process leading to this recommendation, and to request that you refrain from appointing Ms. Borne until we have had the opportunity to meet with you to express our concerns at this fundamentally flawed process,” the letter says.
“We are asking to meet with you to elaborate on our concerns and to request that you have the entire hiring process leading to the recommendation to appoint Ms. Borne reviewed by a reputable, independent human resources consulting firm,” it adds.
“If the process was flawed, this would allow for the matter to be addressed before irrevocable decisions are taken; if the review finds that the process was appropriate and reasonable, it would provide Town Council and the citizens who we represent with confidence in the appointment.”
Councillors defend Burke
Mesheau sent the letter after town council passed a motion on Tuesday authorizing him to request a meeting and a review of the hiring process.
“Jamie is extremely, Mr. Burke is extremely capable,” said Councillor Sabine Dietz, who moved the motion. “He’s done a lot for this town and poured his life into it,” she added.
“I am extremely disappointed. It will be Tantramar’s loss going forward and losing his knowledge, expertise, experience and understanding of the Town of Sackville’s operations is really going to be difficult for Tantramar,” Dietz added.
“I believe that from everything I understand, the hiring process used to make the decision to appoint a different CAO for Tantramar was flawed and neither fair, objective, justifiable nor reasonable,” she concluded.
Councillor Bill Evans, who seconded the motion, echoed Dietz’s concerns.
“The hiring process has been demonstrably if not deliberately flawed and the outcome, to put it mildly, was unreasonable,” he said.
Although he stopped short of spelling it out explicitly, Evans seemed to suggest that Burke was by far the better qualified candidate.
“This whole forced amalgamation process has been unreasonable and unfair from the beginning, but this latest imposition is a disgrace,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Andrew Black provided some insight into how the hiring decision was made during council’s public question period and later, as he answered reporters’ questions.
He said the decision to recommend Jennifer Borne for the CAO job was made by a hiring subcommittee that received advice from an HR consulting firm and amalgamation facilitator Chad Peters.
Black served on that committee, but resigned on June 15 because he says he considered the hiring process rushed and deeply flawed. That left only two remaining subcommittee members, Dorchester’s Deputy Mayor Robert Corkerton and Chris Milner representing the Sackville local service district (LSD), which includes the communities of Westcock and Wood Point.
“I felt that it was an unfair process. I felt that it was fairly biased and it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t reasonable,” Black told reporters.
He says he raised his misgivings early on with facilitator Chad Peters who responded that keeping the Dorchester and Sackville mayors off the hiring subcommittee removed any bias and that in any case, the province had planned to follow this process and there wasn’t really anything that could be done to change it.
Black says that the province should have done the hiring rather than leaving it to three local appointees who did not have the necessary HR expertise.
Black says his initial concerns were confirmed after he started serving on the committee, “so I left.”
To read Mayor Mesheau’s letter to Daniel Allain, click here.