Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
A motion for council to reconsider its process for hiring a new director of engineering and public works was narrowly defeated earlier this week.
Councillors at their May 12th meeting agreed to spend $24,500 to engage a recruitment firm to assist filling what has been described as one of the most important potions at City Hall.
But on Tuesday, Coun. Paul Nickel said he wasn’t sure council had made the right decision, noting the city has a capable human resources department that has hired department directors in the past.
“I’m not sure why this is any different?” he added.
Nickel said spending $24,000 “seems exorbitant” when the position could be advertised through industry magazines and other professional channels that wouldn’t cost the city as much money.
He also questioned the higher pay band that was approved by council, noting once the position has been filled the other department directors will be “playing catch-up.”
As previously reported, the new director will earn more than $119,000 and work towards a top salary of $140,000. The higher salary reflects the fact the public works department has expanded to include the duties of what was previously a separate building and planning department.
While the majority of councillors present backed Nickel’s motion to reconsider, it failed to get the two-thirds support needed by one vote.
Seven voted in favour, with councillors Keith Culliton, Brad Beatty, and Frank Mark opposing. Coun. Tom Clifford was absent for the vote.
After the motion was defeated, Coun. Kerry McManus suggested more information would have been helpful before voting, and successfully put forward a motion that minutes of future non-council and committee meetings be recorded where matters like city policy and procedures related to hiring are being discussed.
“I think it’s important in an age when government is increasingly scrutinized for not being transparent that we do everything in our power to make sure the public has access to information by which we’re making decisions,” she added.
The recommendations to consult a recruitment firm and increase the director’s salary were made by the city’s hiring committee, which consists of the mayor, CAO, chairs of the labour and finance and public works committees, and the directors of the community services and human resources departments.
Mayor Dan Mathieson said the city followed all of the same processes it has in the past when discussing the matter.
“I don’t want anyone to think anything different happened now than has happened (before),” he added.
Coun. Culliton also defended the city’s procedures, and said management must have had good reason to come to council with the requests for additional money.
“(The engineering and public work director’s) position is one that saves this city a lot of money if it’s managed properly,” he added. “Increasing the salary, there’s nothing wrong with it because of the importance of (the position).”