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Hiring Charlottetown CAO turned out to one of the top news stories

Peter Kelly, shown left with Mayor Clifford Lee, was hired by the City of Charlottetown to be its new chief administrative officer last year. The job, which began May 1, 2016, turned out to be one of the biggest news stories of that year.
Peter Kelly, shown left with Mayor Clifford Lee, was hired by the City of Charlottetown to be its new chief administrative officer last year. The job, which began May 1, 2016, turned out to be one of the biggest news stories of that year.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The controversial hiring of Peter Kelly as chief administrative officer was without a doubt one of the bigger news stories this year in Charlottetown.

Kelly assumed his new duties as the top unelected official in the capital city on May 1 after serving in the same role in Alberta’s Westlock County.

Kelly was the mayor of Halifax for a number of years before he signed on as CAO in Alberta.

He is also part of an ongoing review in Alberta, facing accusations he left the Alberta town with an outstanding $200,000 bill. The Alberta government is carrying out an organizations review of municipal operations in Westlock County, a review that some say could take two to three years.

In the meantime, Kelly’s probationary period in Charlottetown was extended by six months because of that review.

In a year-end interview on Wednesday, Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee talked about the hiring for the first time in months.

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee in front of city hall in this recent photograph.

“There’s no question, the hiring of our new CAO in 2016 was a major news story,’’ Lee said. “There is a group in the community saying Clifford hired his buddy. Number one, Clifford was one of four people on the selection committee. Those four people on the selection committee all recommended to council Mr. Kelly as the successful candidate.’’

The other people on that committee were Deputy Mayor Mike Duffy, finance chairwoman Melissa Hilton and human resources chairman Terry MacLeod.

“From all reports I’ve received from people he’s dealt with, being city staff, representatives of the province, they’ve found (Kelly) to be respectful, intelligent and looking out for the interests of the city corporation.’’

He appears to have the backing of council. Privately, individual members of council have all spoken highly of Kelly to The Guardian, although no one will comment on the record.

Lee believes part of the negativity around Kelly’s hiring centres on the fact that he is a former politician. Lee compares it to the negative spin that has dogged former premier Robert Ghiz, who was appointed president and CEO of the main lobby group for the wireless industry in Canada in November.

“There was a group of people in Charlottetown and P.E.I. saying ‘I wonder what he did to get that job’,’’ Lee said, referring to Ghiz. “Unfortunately, people have a bad impression of politicians. I don’t think it’s a fair representation.’’

Lee said Kelly’s hiring may have been the wrong move politically speaking, but the right move for the city corporation.

But, the city faces a challenge with the Kelly hiring. His probationary period has been tied to the Alberta review, but the review could take years to complete.

Lee said the city cannot afford to wait.

“Obviously, two or three years from now this council won’t be in office and this is the council that hired this individual. This council either has to confirm its hiring by ending the probationary period and welcoming him as a full-time employee or terminate the employment, one or the other.’’

Expect a decision sometime in 2017.

dave.stewart@tc.tc

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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