Sackville Town Council seeks independent review of CAO hiring

Mayor Shawn Mesheau wants an independent review of CAO hiring process

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.

Hiring process

Deputy Mayor Andrew Black

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.

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16 Responses to Sackville Town Council seeks independent review of CAO hiring

  1. Mike says:

    Can someone explain to me how what the Mayor and Council are saying about Jenifer Borne is different than what Bruce Phinney said about hiring Jamie Burke?

  2. J. says:

    Might as well get used to it. Fredericton will control the Town of Tantramar with only minor duties for the new council of Tantramar.

  3. Roger says:

    Andrew Black was fine with the biased process – right up until it wasn’t his boy getting the job.

    • Tristan says:

      How can you even say that? You’re completely wrong. He left early on, before any decision was made? Did you even read the article?

      • Sharon Hicks says:

        Tristan … while the information in this article was up-to-date when WarkTimes published it, you might want to check out CHMA’s more recent coverage of this story, with information which Erica Butler obtained from a provincial representative.

        That information differed from Deputy Mayor Black’s timeline. He had indicated he left the committee before any of the actual ‘selection process’ took place.

        However, the Province’s representative indicates that Black was present for the interviews and the ‘scoring’ portion of the process, and left after that part was done.

        Since I was not present, I cannot say for sure which of those two versions is correct, but logic tells us they can’t both be right.

        From the CHMA article, it also appears that when that information from the province was relayed to Black, he didn’t deny he had participated in that portion of the process, but then added that he hadn’t “signed off” on any decision.

        The reason there was no replacement for Black appointed to that selection sub-committee, according to the Provincial Minister’s office, was that the committee had already completed its mandate, and therefore no replacement was required.

        The ‘next step’ in the process, which no longer required the committee itself, involved the provincially-hired HR consultants to do their part, and then submit the committee’s recommendation on to the Province.

        To read it for yourself, here is the link to the CHMA article …

  4. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the people says:

    Folks it is not complicated. Every organization has an inner face that is pretty hard to crack. The out siders on the new council wouldn’t have a chance in hell of getting into that inner circle of the present council. They would be quickly isolated and ostracized. If I was elected as mayor of the new municipality of Tantramar I would encourage the new council to bring a broom and make a clean sweep of the present bureaucracy. I would encourage the new council to solicit the auditor general to audit the big money pits in town hall and how decisions are made by staff.
    #2. The CAO and the remaining staff will be informed that council will not get involved in their day to day decision making, but we will expect to know how the staff derives their recommendation and be crystal clear that they are to minster to the needs of the citizens.
    #3 While chairing a meeting I would be extremely neutral no matter where my passions lie.
    #4. The ubiquitous Code of conduct banished sent to the dust bin. My personal experience as much as we would like to be angels we are not. We already have a is third party ( the courts) codes of conduct are used to hide and add credence to whisper campaigns, back stabbing, growth of backroom clusters, etc. If you cannot say to each other what needs to be said at a regular council meeting, then keep your mouth shut when you leave the meeting. I want arguments about facts not my or other councillors’ personalities, facts, dissonance, arguments, debated, and fiery and incendiary arguments are the best. Like it or not in a democracy citizens are allowed to be rude……Oh no!
    Don’t get me started….

  5. Kelly says:

    I get that the current majority of council and obviously the mayor don’t like the person hired to do the CAO job come September. What I am wondering is how they think it will play out if the successful candidate is now not allowed to assume the role come September? I would think there would be a law suit if in fact that person was given a actual guarantee of the position of employment. I suspect the current majority are concerned they won’t get away with all they want between September and end of their term in November. Should be interesting how this issue gets dealt with. I suspect the minister agreed to listen as a courtesy to these supporters of mr Burke.

    • Percy Best says:

      Kelly, it sure sounds like the Sackville Town Council has gone into the ‘begging’ mode in support of Mr Burke. It certainly seems, based on Ms Borne’s experience as a CAO, and as a successful Business Development Manager. that the HR consultants have definitely picked the right person for our Tantramar CAO. Sad that Deputy Mayor Black bailed out of the committee because if he had stayed on then there would not have been a consensus among the three members then in picking a recommended CAO.

      The current Sackville Mayor and Council seem to forget that the Provincial Government has told us that they are basically taking over governing this area, whether we like it or not. The mayor and council has been given their walking papers and are out in three months so I really don’t think a letter from them will carry any weight. I do look forward to seeing what Minister Allain’s reply will say.

  6. Susan says:

    This Sackville council is just awful. Jennifer Borne was already hired and what about the injustice to her? Get over it. If they didn’t hire Mr. Burke there may have been a very legitimate reason why he wasn’t considered the first person for the job. This does not mean process was biased. I personally am glad to have a new Town council and a new CAO. I am tired of reading about this council and this CEO. The reports from the former fire fighters were enough to say, we need to start fresh. Dorchester does not have all these crazy issues with their fire deparment, so Jennifer is doing a great job. From what I hear from my friends in Dorchester, she is really very much appreciated. Personally, I wish the entire Sackville Council was censured as I would not vote for any one of them again, maybe Bruce, because if this council doesn’t like him it means he can’t be all that bad.

  7. Norman Cole says:

    Dam another study why bother with them you are going to make up your own mind anyway.These are valuable tax dollars you are spending.i thought that council had enough people on board to make decisions, or is it the fact someone going to get thier feelings hurt.I have seen and been told years ago by certain people that if you vote for that you will never work in Sackville again.Is this also the way to get rid of a counselor because he looks at things a different way than the majority .Mr Phinney had enough votes to become councillor so let him do his job.I never heard of such krap coming from council as to suspend him without pay for doing a job that he was voted in to do

  8. Susan says:

    I agree with Norman. Mr. Phinney was an elected official let him do his job. The rest of you should be suspended without pay for doing this. He represents alot of people in this town that you have just disappointed. He may not fit into to your mould but he is still very much appreciated by many or he wound’t be in that office in the first place. Don’t expect the people who voted for him to vote for you.

  9. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the people says:

    Wonderful observation Citizen Cole. Councillors are not employees of the state, but citizens elected by universal suffrage to serve the community. Municipal governments have always been creatures of the province and that is why there was need for reform to allow more local autonomy.
    What’s crazy is the heavy boot of corporatism A-K-A fascism by the provincial government initiated by the revered little premier Frank McKenna and followed through by the supposedly savvy business man Blaine Higgs has delivered the still-born birth of the new community that no one wanted.
    You have to acknowledge that Sackville council did recognize the covertness of the whole affair.
    People cannot take part in an exchange of ideas when the “rules of the game” are eminently unfair to everyone and so the new community will not have the Ethos required to form a vital cohesive community. Autocratic methods, prevarications, rough-shod procedures, changing the rules, fake consensus, and other sleazy tactics have led quite rapidly to bad decision making, because the people- you and I–have been shut out of the decision making process.

  10. Kata List Productions says:

    World Economic Forum’s “The Great Reset” Klaus Schwab founded the org in 1971 and he says in zee future “You will own nothing and be happy” – thank God someone has a plan to manage us.

  11. Jon says:

    What’s unfair is having such decisions made by councillors who weren’t elected to organize a new municipality, and may not be on the Tantramar council when that’s elected. It would have been fairer and more reasonable to keep both CAOs for a few months while the merger is worked out, and then have the newly elected Tantramar council make the decisions.

    Funny, how this council wants complete secrecy around HR issues until there’s one that they’re unhappy with, like not getting their favourite appointed. Then they’re okay with publicly accusing people of unfairness, bias, and implying that a candidate isn’t qualified.

    The sooner we have an election and new council the better.

  12. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the people. says:

    Good leadership clearly defines the objective, and goes to the people in the trenches and asks what is needed, and how resources will be made available to those who are tasked in meeting the objective.
    It is the “Vimy Ridge Eureka Moment” when Canadian leaders recognize that decisions made far from the front line hemmorrhaged million of lives. Volunteer Citizen soldiers whose lives were being squandered were actually asked how best to tackle an objective and what tools were needed to do the job. Seems simple now. “Do we have to march as if on a parade square across no mans land ?” On the day of the attack 35 000 maps were distributed . The rest is history.
    Volunteer citizen soldiers who could read and write seized the day. Somehow the Fredericton bureaucracy cultivating backroom ties with powerful businesses have surreptitiously stymied real reform by not trusting their citizens. Thank God the top brass have only hemorrhaged money.

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