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Three Rivers rescinds CAO offer to Andy Daggett, votes to hire Jill Walsh

Former Montague CAO Andy Daggett during Monday’s Three Rivers council meeting. Council voted during the meeting to rescind its offer of employment to Daggett.
Former Montague CAO Andy Daggett during Monday’s Three Rivers council meeting. Council voted during the meeting to rescind its offer of employment to Daggett. - Mitch MacDonald

THREE RIVERS, P.E.I. - An “impasse” in salary negotiations has led Three Rivers council to rescind an offer of employment to former Montague CAO Andy Daggett.

The Town of Three Rivers saw a shift in CAOs when council passed a resolution Monday night rescinding the offer of CAO it approved last month for Daggett to instead offer the position to former Montague clerk of the council and finance officer Jill Walsh.

Although Mayor Ed MacAulay declined to answer a resident’s question of what led to what he described as an “impasse” in the hiring process, following the meeting Daggett said the salary offered was significantly less than CAO positions in smaller P.E.I. municipalities.

“That’s basically what it boils down to,” said Daggett, who served as Montague’s CAO for nearly 12 years and, along with all other municipal staff, has remained employed unofficially with Three Rivers since September’s amalgamation.

Daggett said while Three Rivers is now the province’s fourth largest municipality with a population of approximately 7,500, the pay offered was less than the same position in Cornwall (population of about 5,000) and Kensington (population of about 1,600).

Daggett also said the salary was “very similar” to what he was paid in Montague, despite being more than triple the population, which he said was already about $20,000 less than colleagues in similar-sized municipalities.

He also questioned the legality of the decision and referenced cabinet’s executive order authorizing the amalgamation.

Section 17 (D) of the order states the town’s CAO shall be appointed in a manner consistent with Section 6 of a Memorandum of Settlement, which itself states that “Three Rivers will develop job descriptions, pay scales commensurate with similar positions in other municipalities of comparable size”.

“That’s not commensurate, I don’t even know if that’s even legal,” said Daggett. “The order is a legal document … there are questions in my mind whether council actually followed the law by ordering less than what is commensurate.

“I don’t want to sign onto something I don’t think was done legally.”

Daggett said he felt accepting the offer would also raise problems for the municipality’s other staff, whose salary is comparative to the CAO.

“So if I settle for a lot less than what people are making in other areas of similar size… Everybody is going to get less,” said Daggett. “It’s a little disappointing … we’re the fourth largest municipality, we’re bigger than Cornwall and we need to start seeing our employees and our council in that category.”

As far as his future with the town, Daggett was unsure.

“We’ll wait and see what they offer me. If they offer me (a position), we’ll go from there. There are lots of options.”

The decision was not unanimous, with Coun. Wayne Spin and Coun. John MacFarlane both voting against the motion.

Although both expressed confidence in Walsh, Spin said the town was losing an employee who loved the job and would also now have to find a new finance officer.

MacFarlane said he was “disappointed” to lose Daggett, who he described as a “great CAO” and said the transition would likely put council “behind a little bit”.

“I’ll support the new CAO, it was a democratic decision by council,” said MacFarlane.

The meeting also saw an appeal by resident Joseph Spriet.

While Spriet did not explicitly support Daggett, he stated the CAO was the “second most important” position in the municipality and questioned whether all factors would be weighed, including the large job ahead for the new town, before council voted.

“I think you really, really need to think about what’s ahead here,” said Spriet.

MacAulay said Spriet was unable to ask what led to the impasse, although he said he did not think there was any fault in the hiring process.

MacAulay, who sat on the hiring committee with interim CAO Kevin Jenkins, Coun. Gerard Holland and Coun. Jane King, also said he had confidence in council’s decision.

He said one of the biggest problems keeping Three Rivers “on the ground” was its critics.

“We are going to run into our critics and we’re going to run into people who think they have a better way of doing things,” said MacAulay. “We’ve made our decisions and we’re sticking with our decisions so far.”

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