By Cory Hurley and Gary Kean ~ Star Staff Writers
The new direction the Corner Brook city council has decided to take in its upper management remains a mystery the day after it publicly fired its chief administrative officer.
The statement read by Mayor Charles Pender Monday evening specifically referenced city council deciding to take the city in a new direction. It was said fresh leadership at the CAO position was required to implement the change.
After Monday night’s meeting, Pender said council was still working on what that direction would be and that the ongoing operational and organizational review being conducted by KPMG, a consultant hired earlier this year, would help shape the new direction.
Like the mayor, the remainder of council was also not saying much, or treading very carefully in terms of answering questions pertaining to the dismissal of Mike Dolter. The majority of council members reached Tuesday also would not comment on this new direction or deferred questions to the mayor.
Coun. Josh Carey said the mayor would be the best one to speak to about council’s new direction. He can only speak from his own perspective, he said.
“It’s business as usual among our staff, and I have every confidence that they will be professional, as they always have been, and move the city in the decisions we are about to make in the future in that direction,” Carey said.
Meanwhile, Coun. Keith Cormier said he felt it is best he does not comment based on the legalities of the situation.
“I am just looking forward to working with everybody, and getting the KPMG process completed,” he said. “I just want to make things better for the city.”
Coun. Linda Chaisson and Coun. Mary Ann Murphy declined comment altogether, while Coun. Tony Buckle deferred comment to the mayor. Buckle said he wanted to stay out of discussing human resources issues publicly.
Deputy Mayor Bernd Staeben had been unavailable earlier in the day, but responded via an email later. He too didn’t add much to the rationale behind Dolter’s termination.
“Rest assured, I have the best interests of the city in my heart,” was all he said.
In another interview with the mayor later Tuesday, Pender would not get into the specifics of what this will cost the city financially. He acknowledged Dolter’s employment contract, as per any typical management contract, contained a severance package, but would not give details of that component of the contract.
“There was a contract that was signed in 2005 and, based on that contract, we are meeting all the provisions of everything that is in there,” said the mayor. “Obviously, there was severance involved, but the amounts and so on I won’t get into.”
Pender was not concerned council taking this action might scare off anyone they might hope to recruit to work for the city in the future. He said most large organizations review their leadership every five to seven years and make changes if it is felt necessary to do so.
“In our case, there was a change in council and there was a change in the CAO position,” said Pender. “We’re going to an organizational review and we’re hoping, at the end of the day, we’ll have a much more efficient and effective organization our employees here want to work for and we can attract new employees.”
When asked what he would say to the residents who want to know exactly why the CAO was dismissed, Pender said council was elected to run the city and has been authorized to make changes. He said one of the biggest themes leading up to last September’s municipal election was a need for change at city hall.
“We’re certainly doing that,” said Pender.
The mayor said council cannot be as open and transparent as some people would like them to be about this particular decision because it is a human resources issue and legislation prevents council from going into much detail.
“We can’t be as open because we have to respect people’s privacy and their rights,” said Pender. “We trust that people understand this is a normal process we are going through here. Whatever information we can put out there, we have ... We don’t make those (privacy) rules, but we have to follow them.”