Charlottetown mayor says city did homework before it hired new CAO

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 29, 2016

MAYOR CLIFFORD LEE

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee says the city did its homework before it hired Peter Kelly as chief administrative officer.

Council made it official on Tuesday, with all six councillors who attended the special public meeting supporting the former mayor of Halifax.

"To be honest, the criticisms of Mr. Kelly were made in the media,'' Lee said following the vote. "I can tell you that background reference checks were done on Mr. Kelly; a criminal background check was done. Nothing came up of any concern.''

RELATED: FORMER HALIFAX MAYOR LOOKS FORWARD TO NEW OPPORTUNITY IN CHARLOTTETOWN

Kelly served as mayor of Halifax from 2000-12 before leaving office. Media stories during the end of his final term focused on the Halifax Common concert scandal and his role as executor of a Bedford woman's will.

Kelly also conducted a pay review for Charlottetown council last July, resulting in a 12 to 22 per cent pay hike.

Lee said his work on the pay review and his new role as CAO are not connected at all, explaining that at the time the review took place the CAO job was not open.

"The city intentionally went out and hired Island Recruiting who worked with a selection committee from start to finish, the purpose (of which) was to ensure the selection committee followed appropriate (human resource procedures).

"You can't hire someone or not hire someone based on the fact that some members of the media may not have liked Mr. Kelly when he was the mayor of Halifax.

"Did he make mistakes? Possibly. There isn't one of us in public life who has never made a mistake. I can tell you that all of his character references checked out perfect. It's not fair to any individual at all to select him or not select him based on optics.''

Lee said Kelly's 12 years as mayor, which saw him elected three times, is proof he was doing something right.

"It kind of tells me that he was well respected by the citizens of Halifax. What the media thought or not thought is, quite frankly, irrelevant in my view. He brings to this city municipal experience and different viewpoints about other ideas that the city of Charlottetown can look at.''

Talk on the streets of Charlottetown ranged from "what is the city thinking'' to shrugs of disbelief.

One Rustico man told The Guardian that people shouldn't base their opinion on someone based on what they read.

"Give him a chance. Judge him on what he does for the city, not on what he did before,'' said the man who only identified himself as Joe.

Kelly spent the past 18 months as CAO of a Westlock County in Alberta.

Reeve Bud Massey (reeve is equivalent to a mayor) was quoted in the local media as saying that Kelly's resignation is "a tremendous loss for us and our citizens''.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart