Chris Davis, Pincher Creek Voice
Archie Grover, hired to perform the Administration and Principal Operations review for the Town, presented his findings to council and a small group of interested citizens at the October 24th public council meeting.
Prior to Grover's report, Mayor Ernie Olsen cautioned those in attendance that there wasn't to be any interruptions, and that there would be no public discussion of the report afterwards at the meeting, saying council members had not yet had the opportunity to read and discuss it themselves.
In his preamble Grover said he had conducted personal confidential interviews with the Mayor, all the council members, with the staff of the Town of Pincher Creek offices, with the town solicitor, and with a select number of the general public.
An end to unscheduled delegations?
Grover said he had attended three council meetings, and made note of some "irregular procedures of the council." He said he observed members of the public "interrupting council proceedings by asking questions, and council respinding to them." He suggested order be maintained in the future. "In order to establish decorum, this practice must stop." Grover also took issue with unscheduled delegations, which often appear near the beginning of council meetings. "I do believe having unscheduled delegations speak at your meetings promotes this unacceptable behaviour," he said. "I'm therefore recommending this item be discontinued as an agenda item."
Grover was concerned about irregular procedures during the council meetings he attended.
He cited one situation where a Town staff member was present to fill in for the absent CAO but was sent home to be replaced by a councillor who recorded the minutes instead. Grover indicated this was an unacceptable practice. "The validity of that meeting could certainly be brought into question," he said, citing sections of the Municipal Government Act which state in part "The Chief Administrative Officer must ensure that all minutes of council meetings are recorded in the English language without note or comment," and " a Chief Adminstrative Office may delegate any of the Chief Adminstrative Officer's powers, duties, or functions under this or any other enactment or bylaw to a designated officer or an employee of the municipality."
In another case, a councillor did not vote on a motion related to the Mill Rate Bylaw on May 9. 2011, which Grover said would normally disqualify him or her from the council unless he or she was permitted to abstain from voting, which Grover indicated should be a rare ocurrence and only for a few specific reasons. "Councillors, raise your hands high when you're voting," he admonished. "Leave no doubt in anyone's mind that you have voted."
He said councillors "habitually allowed their colleagues to add items to the agenda at a council meeting meetings." Grover made it plain this was an unacceptable practice. "The purpose of having the agenda package prepared several days ahead of the meeting is so councillors can become familiar with the agenda and to consider... before having to make an instant decision at a council meeting on a topic they know very little about."
Suggested: less meetings
Grover suggested the Town Council only hold one public meeting a month, after tightening up their procedures and rules, and only one Committee of the Whole meeting as well. At present council holds two meetings of each kind a month, except during the summertime.
CAO investigated and exonerated
Grover next turned his discourse to the subject of Chief Accounting Office Laurie Wilgosh, who apparently had been criticized by some past and present staff, as well as un-named members of the council. He made note of her 20 years of service to the Village of Cowley in the same role, and mentioned some of the differences in the two positions, related to the size and scope of the expectations placed on the role in a village as compared to a town the size of Pincher Creek. He said he was initially concerned that she had no certificate in municipal administration skills, but as she was now enrolled in an education program his concerns had dissipated. "Mrs. Wilgosh is very popular with her staff, and they think she's a good leader, and they enjoy working with her," said Grover, "even though some feel she could be a little firmer in her decision-making process and her management style. She must realize she cannot please everyone all of the time. She must make decisions more quickly and stand by them." Grover said "the majority of councillors have confidence in their CAO." He suggested "any councillor who has a problem with the CAO get to know her better. I am of the opinion that Mrs. Wilgosh has the necessary experience and sufficient knowledge to perform her duties." He recommended inproved communications between some councillors and the CAO.
No more "Director of Corporate Services"?
Grover suggested the vacant Director of Corporate Services" position be abolished.
Grover was pleased with new additions to the Town of Pincher Creek website, including a way for citizens to contact council with their concerns. He said he'd received some uncomplimentary remarks about the way staff deals with complaints, and thought the complaint process was "a bit antiquated" before the Town purchased the new software to help with filing them. He said the citizenry "must be handled courteously and expeditiously" when dealing with the Town Office.
Size of Town workforce
Grover next addressed the concerns of "many ratepayers and some councillors" that the Town workforce was too large. He indicated there were 33 full-time staff, 14 part-time staff, and 9 summer students last summer, and said this was not an unusually high staffing number for a town the size of Pincher Creek, with the number of facilities we have. Similarly, concerns about the high cost of the Recreation department were downplayed. He said the Recreation employees joined a union when the town took over the old Rec board, and at the same time the town assumed responsibility for benefits and electricity costs in the new situation. In addition, he mentioned that the Town now charged the Recreation Department for in house services, which inflated the figures somewhat.
Pools are expensive
Grover said that "all indoor pools are costly," and if Pincher Creek wanted to keep running a pool it would have to accept that fact. In answer to the concerns of the 22 complaint signatories, he said "Yes, there has been an increase in pool wages." In his opinion the pool staffing "is about right at this time."
Concerns about building permits
Grover said there was nothing in his findings to indicate the Town's building permit regulations were being broken by citizens.
Website contract concerns
In terms of the Town website contract, which was recently tendered out for bids, Grover said there was only one company that responded, thae same company presently doing the website work, and therefore their contract was renewed.
Development Office position
Grover said that concerns about the Development Office position were unfounded, as the role had been filled with "temporary" help only, but expected the position to be advertised by the end of the year.
Other allegations dismissed
Nearing the conclusion of his report Grover said "There have been many other allegations made and questions asked of me in the course of this investigation, which I have looked into, but I have found there to be nothing irregular about any of the activities, and ... I don't feel I should spend any more time on these issues in this report."
Mr. Grover said the organizational structure of the Town was "typical of many organizations", with the exception of the Town office, which he said suffered from an "unorthodox reporting structure." He recommended a more traditional structure, and provided a suggested amended organizational chart with his report. He also recommended the Town create a new designated Safety Officer position.
We're in the money
Grover said the Town was in good financial shape, having almost 9 million dollars in reserve.
Grover summarized his report with 9 recommendations, as follows (paraphrased):
- 1) Have a designated officer or an employee assigned by the CAO at legally appointed meetings to report the proceedings.
- 2) Make sure to vote on every motion, resolution, or bylaw.
- 3) Eliminate having items of a non emergent nature added to the agenda.
- 4) Reduce the number of Council and Committee of the Whole meetings.
- 5) Eliminate unscheduled delegations.
- 6) CAO abolish the Director of Department Services position.
- 7) CAO reorganize the office.
- 8) CAO designate a Safety Officer for the Town.
- 9) Council adopt the amended procedure bylaw.