Rob Philpott, centre, the Summerside’s new director of financial services meets with acting CAO Gordon MacFarlane, left, and Coun. Peter Holman, chairman of the city’s human resources committee. Philpott replaces Malcolm Millar who retired after 10 years on the job. Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
Summerside city council has approved a bylaw that specifically sets out the powers and responsibilities of the chief administrative officer.
“The importance of the bylaw is that it outlines what the responsibilities of a new CAO are with regards to the operation of the city, the reporting structure that‘s going to be required of the new CAO, how he or she is to report to council, and what expectations of council are of the new CAO,” said Coun. Peter Holman, chairman of the city’s human rights and legal affairs committee.
“There really was no clear direction previously in regards to what type of reporting structure there was in regards to council.
“We have now tightened that up so it’s very clear as to what we expect as council members from our CAO, how we want him to report, when we want him to report, what meetings we require him to attend, what meetings we may not want him to attend.”
Holman said this was not the standard in the past.
“How it was done in the past was basically, the CAO would come in and tell council whatever he felt like telling them,” he said. “We want it a little more clearer than that.”
Holman said it wasn’t clear to the CAO what the expectations of council were.
“This particular council wanted it very clear as to what the reporting requirements are, how we want that presented to us and when we wanted it presented. We found in the past the some of the information was not coming to council that should have been coming to council. We’d find out about it after the fact and that’s not the way it should be.”
"We found in the past the some of the information was not coming to council that should have been coming to council. We’d find out about it after the fact and that’s not the way it should be.” Coun. Peter Holman
Holman said there were incidents in the past that played a part in the drafting of the new bylaw.
“I would tend to agree that yes, that would certainly have a bearing on it because, as I said, we made it very clear as to what it is we want to know, how we want to know it and it’s in black and white,“ he said. “There are no brown areas, no grey areas. It’s cut very clear as to how we expect him to proceed in the future.”
There was a perception the position of CAO had too much power. The new bylaw sets out limits, including what the CAO can negotiate.
“It outlines exactly what he is authorized to do on behalf of the city, what dollar limits he can negotiate contract under his own authority versus having to come to council,“ Holman said. “Those dollar limits are in the vicinity of $50,000 where in the past it was up to $500,000.”