ARICHAT: A senior policy adviser with Nova Scotia’s Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) has advised Richmond Municipal Council to move “quickly” on hiring a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and to ensure transparency for all of its activities until this hiring is complete.

The municipality hired former Port Hawkesbury CAO Maris Freimanis on an interim basis last December to fill the position left vacant by the resignation of Warren Olsen two months earlier. With Freimanis’ six-month term expiring at the end of June and no replacement found before last week’s annual general meeting of the municipality, DMA municipal advisor Ron Dauphinee advised councillors that they can temporarily fill the CAO’s duties as a unit but must carry out in public any decisions that would normally fall under a CAO’s job decision.

“All of council acts as the CAO together, but you don’t wear different hats,” Dauphinee explained during the public question period that wrapped up the July 4 council session.

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“So when you meet as the CAO, you’re still meeting as council, so those meetings have to be made public. That probably necessitates a lot of meetings, so I would encourage you to move quickly in your CAO search, and we would be happy to help you with that.”

When Warden Brian Marchand questioned Dauphinee as to whether small-scale decisions such as “purchasing paper” would require such a public forum, the DMA representative replied in the affirmative.

“All meetings of council, unless they are subject to in-camera meeting rules [must be open to the public],” Dauphinee declared.

“That’ll expedite our search for a CAO,” Marchand remarked, adding: “I was told that today.”

Dauphinee also told the Richmond council meeting, which was chaired by Marchand, that he did not “mean to sound patronizing” in his remarks and pledged the department’s assistance to help Richmond County successfully complete its search for a CAO and stabilize its overall organizational structure.

“The department is fully supportive of Richmond County and we are here for both staff and council,” Dauphinee declared.

“We acknowledge that you’ve been through some difficult times, and you’re not out of the woods yet. So the offer is still standing as we move forward in your CAO search that we are more than willing to offer assistance to you.”