ANALYSIS

Sarnia’s Chief Administrative Officer is leaving her job this week

In a move that may have been inevitable, Marg Misek-Evans and the City have agreed to 'part ways'

Predictable? Perhaps. But the departure of Sarnia’s Chief Administrative Officer, while lauded by some, is not a good sign for the future “good practices” management of the municipality, especially in light of other recent departures, the City Solicitor and the Director of Finance, two senior positions, plus—announced today (Tuesday, Dec. 18)—a third: the Director of Community Development Services & Standards.

While we will (likely) never know the details on what it cost the City of Sarnia to provide what may actually amount to a pre-existing settlement package for Misek-Evans, who has been in the position for the last five years, it is most likely money that could easily have been saved had the workplace environment which she and others endured not existed.

Reports that discussions on an “exit” for Misek-Evans had begun shortly after the new City Council was sworn in have emerged from published reports in other media, with Jim Crawford, Sarnia’s corporate manager of human resources, quoted as saying Council finalized the agreement at an in-camera (closed door) meeting prior to its regular meeting on Monday.

“The city (determined) together with the CAO (chief administrative officer) that the relationship was better to move forward, and it was a mutual agreement between both parties,” Crawford was quoted as saying.

Any agreement is deemed to be confidential, although there is one thing to be considered: common sense would suggest there may have been a settlement agreed to around the time (two years ago) when Misek-Evans (along with the others involved) were subjected to workplace bullying and harassment.

Was any such settlement involving Misek-Evans, who clearly agreed to stay in her job, deferred?

It’s a question worth asking.

Fast forward and Crawford has said that a new job posting to find Misek-Evans’ replacement is likely within a week.

The most recent departure of other senior officials at the City is Alan Shaw, who announced his resignation today (December 18).

City Solicitor Scott McEachran resigned recently, with his stated plans being to head back to private practice on Jan. 4.

Finance Director Lisa Armstrong has also quit; her last day will be Feb. 22, 2019. Armstrong joined the City’s senior staff in September 2015; the person she replaced is Brian McKay, now business superintendent at the Lambton Kent District School Board.

Shaw, who is the City’s director of Community Development Services & Standards, an employee for nearly 10 years, will leave his position on February 1, 2019, to join the City of Toronto as Director of Building (North York) and Deputy Chief Building Officer.

The point being? These are “heavy hitter” positions that won’t be easy to fill, at least not with the calibre of people that are (or were) in them now.

The job of recruiting for these positions, including a new CAO and the other two senior posts, will also be conducted under the spectre of a Mayor who was found to be in violation of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, which is why the second floor of City Hall is configured the way it is currently.

So here we are, with everyone involved playing nice, including the Mayor who said publicly that he thanks Misek-Evans for her years of service and wishes her well, referring to a handful of municipalities where the CAOs have left when a new Council is elected.

One thing is clear above all else: It’s going to be a very interesting ride in 2019 and not necessarily in a good way.

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