Editor’s note: The following letter was written to Chuck Porter, Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Dear Minister Porter,
In December of 2006, then Education Minister, Karen Casey, used her authority under the Education Act to strip the Halifax regional school board of its authority in an effort to restore stability and have board members act in a professional manner.
“The public expects its elected officials to act professionally. Board members have a duty to the people who elected them and to the tax payers of Nova Scotia,” she said at the time. “I am disturbed by the board’s continued inability to respect one another and I am frustrated that they seem unable to get back to the business of educating students.”
She took this step after board meetings ground to a halt following more than a year of internal division, leaving important agenda items undecided. Minister Casey appointed an administrator to carry out all responsibilities and have the authority of the board. This arrangement continued until the next school board elections took place in October of 2008.
This was not the first time these steps were taken. In fact, in 2002 the government appointed Ken Meech to oversee the Strait regional school board after it devolved into dysfunction.
Minister Porter, those school board members may as well have been sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya compared to the dysfunction that exists within Richmond Municipal Council.
On Monday, April 1, Richmond County councillors voted to fire the most recent in a string of CAOs, Kent MacIntyre. The issue was whether Mr. MacIntyre had provided councillors with information they requested in a sufficiently timely manner. As reported in The Reporter, information that was requested sometime after a March 11 meeting was scheduled to be turned over at the audit committee meeting on Wednesday, April 3. In the interim, though, the councillor who requested the information – Deputy Warden Brian Marchand – was invited to view any information he liked at the municipal office if the scheduled meeting date did not please him. He chose not to.
Instead of waiting for Wednesday’s audit committee meeting, council began to discuss the matter during Monday’s meeting. Following a two hour in-camera session (where Councillor James Goyetche said a consensus was reached to work with the CAO), a motion was made by councillor Gilbert Boucher, seconded by councillor Alvin Martell, to immediately remove the CAO from his position. With Brian Marchand’s support, the motion carried and Kent MacIntyre, who was just over a year into a five-year contract, was fired. All this because three councillors, who couldn’t be bothered to drive to Arichat to view whatever receipts and paperwork they wanted, wouldn’t wait 48 hours for an official audit committee meeting where every question they could think of would be theirs to ask.
If Mr. MacIntyre DOESN’T bring legal action against this council, I will be extremely surprised. Here is a man with a long career in municipal affairs and business who was not only fired over three councillors’ inability to be patient for 48 hours, but to add insult to injury, a second motion was introduced and approved. Gilbert Boucher moved, with support from Brian Marchand and Alvin Martell that “the CAO be escorted to his office to pick up his personal items and if he has anything else in there, to make an appointment in the next day or two.”
Escorted to his office?! Our last full-time CAO charged $582 to his municipal credit card for back-to-back nights at an adult entertainment club in Houston. Was he escorted to his office on his way out? We don’t believe he was, and yet three councillors chose to, yet again, bully their way through a meeting without any consideration for due process, strategic operations of an elected board, and an understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
If Karen Casey set the bar for dissolving an elected board, this council has blown well past that. We can see no alternative but to remove each of these elected officials and have someone appointed to ensure taxpayers’ interests are being served under the authority of the Department of Municipal Affairs. As it stands now, this council has put our small municipality in a precarious financial situation. If budget shortfalls were a concern earlier this month, just wait until after Mr. MacIntyre has his day in court; a day, in our opinion, to which he is absolutely entitled.
Finally, when Kent MacIntyre was first hired, a local newspaper wrote that: “Richmond County has had its fair share of difficulties over the past couple of years, with a spending scandal and the eventual resignation of former CAO Warren Olsen. That did not discourage MacIntyre from putting his name forward for the position.” Who, in their right mind, would apply now? We call on you to act swiftly to ensure our municipality does not become the laughing stock of the province… again.