ARICHAT: Councillors voted 3-2 to terminate the contract of Richmond County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kent MacIntyre.
During a special meeting of Richmond Municipal Council tonight in Arichat, District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher introduced a motion to immediately remove MacIntyre from his position, following a two-hour in-camera session to discuss a personnel matter.
His motion was second by District 2 councillor Alvin Martell, and supported by Deputy Warden Brian Marchand. Warden Jason MacLean and District 1 councillor James Goyetche voted against the motion.
“Is this an April fool’s joke?” MacLean asked when Boucher made the motion.
The warden expressed shock at the motion, noting that the CAO planned to turn-over all financial details during a meeting of the municipal audit committee Wednesday night.
“This is going to prove to be a very costly motion to the taxpayers of Richmond County,” MacLean told council. “I’m floored by this. I have no idea where it’s coming from. You have asked for answers, those questions were to be answered on Wednesday night. This is a premature action to which we have questions and concerns. Those questions and concerns should have been dealt with and this is not a proper way to deal with that.”
Goyetche said he was “very disappointed” by the motion made after, he said, a consensus was reached during the closed council session.
“We just went through an in-camera session where we agreed as a council to work with the CAO and staff for the betterment of the taxpayers of Richmond County,” Goyetche told council. “All of a sudden, without notice… a motion to terminate. I’m very disappointed and I will be voting against that motion.”
Marchand then asked that MacIntyre turn-over any municipal items (like keys), or equipment (including phones and laptops) before he left the municipal building at the conclusion of the meeting.
“This needs to get done,” Marchand told council.
Boucher then introduced another motion, seconded by Marchand, and supported by Martell, which was also approved.
“I move 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,” Boucher told council.
After the vote, MacLean agreed to a suggestion from Goyetche to verify with the Department of Municipal Affairs whether council needs a simple majority, or a two-thirds majority, to fire the CAO.
Before the votes were held Monday night, council reviewed information on the 2018-2019 sundry budget account.
Marchand told council that “more discussion” was needed since the sundry account was supposed to be $27,000 but is now over-budget and has since increased to $69,850.
The issue arose after the committee-of-the-whole meeting on March 11 when Marchand’s request for information on the sundry account remained unanswered. Then during the regular monthly meeting of council, Martell again requested the information.
“So apparently, the CAO is not responding to one councillor’s request for this information,” Martell told council on March 25. “Therefore, I took it upon myself to bring it to council, for a vote of council. If the motion is accepted, hopefully the CAO can feel comfortable releasing that information.”
Martell then moved that council direct the CAO to instruct the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to print and distribute computer-generated copies of the sundry budget account to all councillors immediately after last week’s meeting.
Marchand then went a step further, requesting an amendment to the motion so that copies of the sundry account would have been distributed during the meeting.
The deputy warden said he was tired of not receiving responses to his repeated queries, and after eight months of having requests for other invoices ignored by the CAO, he was not willing to wait any longer.
CAO Kent MacIntyre explained that he received an e-mail after the March 11 meeting and responded at the time that the sundry account information would be provided during discussions of the administrative budget.
“Our last budget meeting, I did ask councillors to have some patience, as we are really digging in on our current budget,” MacIntyre told council on March 25. “This sundry account does not impact any part of this current budget. This is just an account detail and it is a sundry account, which essentially is a miscellaneous account. It doesn’t impact current budget deliberations. It doesn’t impact the current budget. It is for the current budget year.”
MacIntyre told council the appropriate place and time for such disclosure is during meetings of the municipality’s audit committee.
“The importance of that is when we disclose accounts and details of accounts, it’s very important that councillors get the full picture… otherwise they will make undue assumptions, so it’s very important that they have factual information,” MacIntyre told council.
MacIntyre said he consulted with the Department of Municipal Affairs and was told the audit committee is the proper place to discuss this budget detail.
“I think it’s very, very prudent upon this council to follow a process and there’ll be full disclosure at the audit committee,” the CAO stated. “This is pretty basic administrative information…”
The deputy warden questioned why the CAO told representatives of Richmond County tourism groups during the March 11 meeting that there was funding available in the sundry account, after Martell reviewed the budget, determined that was not the case, and told the groups the municipality was unable to fulfill their request. Marchand said that is why he sent the CAO the e-mail requesting that information after the meeting.
“I thought I was very clear; the item that we’re speaking about here has nothing to do with future budgets,” Marchand responded. “It has all to do with the current year fiscal budget.”
Goyetche said municipal staff is supposed to deal with such matters and municipal auditors can identify any discrepancies.
“I don’t think my role here as councillor is to deal with administrative duties,” Goyetche told council late last month. “I think we have staff that’s responsible for administering the affairs of Richmond County.
“… My responsibility and my duty as a councillor representing the taxpayers of Richmond County is to ask the people in charge of administering these funds, which is the CAO and our Chief Financial Officer, ‘do we have the funds available?’”
Goyetche also questioned if the motion followed proper procedure.
“I don’t think it’s a legal motion, I don’t think we can do it, and I think the CAO – according to the Department of Municipal Affairs, if you have checked with them – I think you have all the rights not to submit these requests…”
Martell countered that after the spending controversy more than three years ago, council is now expected to be more open and transparent.
“Now how can we be open and transparent when councillors – not the public, but councillors themselves, the governing body of the council – cannot get information from the CAO? I have a problem with that,” the District 2 councillor said.
Even if there is a budget process, Martell said the business of the municipality must continue, and part of that is disclosing budget items when requested.
The warden said he could not support the motion because the CAO was willing to sit down with individual councillors to review that information. Because of the advice from the DMA, and with an audit committee meeting taking place, MacLean declared the motion out of order.
Marchand disagreed and took issue with the advice from the department. He then made another motion to have the sundry accounts disclosed; a motion which was again ruled out of order by the warden.
“It’s out of order because there’s an avenue in place for you to receive the information that you asked for,” the warden responded. “Now just because you’re not going to get it tonight, doesn’t mean you’re not going to get it.”
The deputy warden said MacLean had no grounds to declare the motion out of order, pointing out that Section 30 of the Municipal Government Act allows representatives to ask questions of staff when looking for information.
“I can’t believe what’s happening here,” Marchand responded. “This is shocking.”
After a representative of the department refused to weigh-in on the debate when asked by MacLean, and considering the disagreement whether the motion was actually out of order, Goyetche recommended, and MacLean agreed, that council get advice.
During Monday night’s special meeting, the deputy warden asked whether the warden was correct in declaring his motion out of order.
After agreeing to a request from Martell, MacLean read a letter from Registered Parliamentarian Bernie White who reviewed a videotape of last week’s meeting and ruled that the warden should have put his decision to a vote of council.