It has fumbled this file from the start and is determined to make things worse by retreating behind closed doors to decide on its next step.
In a terse statement last week, the city said that mayor and council met with a lawyer to review an Alberta Municipal Inspection Report. That report, released in late August, indicated that Mr. Kelly, who earlier served as CAO of Westlock County, contravened Alberta’s Municipal Government Act because he acted without council approval on a land deal and appeared to not exercise “reasonable oversight of capital project costs.”
Charlottetown council says it needs more time to review the report before making a statement – expected by the end of this month. The city is consulting a lawyer and going in camera for obvious reasons. It is reacting to widespread criticism – some of it from inside council – on why Mr. Kelly was hired in the first place and why he’s still CAO; and what fallout is involved if it decides to terminate his employment.
After deciding last fall to keep Mr. Kelly on probation until the Alberta report was filed, council jumped the gun and made his job permanent in May, three months before the Alberta report was completed. In a bold move to shore up his position, Mr. Kelly issued his own statement, attacking the Westlock report, and claiming he was being unfairly made a scapegoat. His spirited rebuttal was likened to the sports adage that the best defence is a good offence.
The embattled Charlottetown CAO did get some good news last week when Alberta RCMP confirmed they have not launched any investigation – criminal or otherwise - related to Westlock. But Mr. Kelly now faces problems within Charlottetown council where Coun. Bob Doiron said hiring Mr. Kelly was an unnecessary risk and the Westlock report confirms that conclusion. If councillors are concerned, it’s reasonable to presume many city residents have concerns as well.
Mr. Kelly was made permanent CAO when council appeared satisfied with his job performance - coming shortly after the city brought down a balanced budget, with much improved financial projections. But council made it clear that should he be convicted of breaking the law in Alberta, his employment status would be reviewed. The Westlock report didn’t suggest criminal action but did indicate inappropriate activity.
Now city council finds itself in a conundrum. It seems legally committed to Mr. Kelly but if it had the Alberta report before ending his extended probationary period, council might have come to a different decision. The city has spent far too much time on this file and its CAO is in the same situation – each party is not operating very efficiently with these lingering reports, allegations, investigations and questions.
And really, what is left to discuss? The facts are all out there. Decide what to do in open council, let residents know what's going on and move forward - with or without Mr. Kelly.