Last Monday’s city council meeting brought to light a very disturbing issue. It’s a decision that should evoke a response from the citizens of Summerside.
The city is divided into eight wards and each ward has a representative who, not only has address the concerns of their constituents, but also must take into consideration the best interests of the city as a whole.
It can be a delicate balancing act. Councillors have to weigh ward concerns versus citywide concerns and vote accordingly. Sometimes issues in individual wards have to take a back seat because of more pressing demands that affect the city as a whole.
Individual councillors oftentimes feel the wrath of their constituents because it is perceived their needs are not being met.
It’s a tough task being a city councillor is a 24/7 job.
It is imperative that every councillor has all the information to make the right decision.
That’s not happening here. Case in point.
When Terry Murphy retired as the city’s chief administrative officer, council voted to contract an independent outside firm to look for a replacement.
That firm was mandated to come up with three candidates for the position who would then be interviewed by council as a whole.
On Monday night, Coun. Peter Holman, chairman of the city’s human resources committee, reported that a city staffed hiring committee had been struck to conduct the initial interviews with questions provided by the outside consultants, who would then recommend two candidates to council.
This hiring committee consists of Holman, Mayor Basil Stewart, Coun. Ron Dowling and acting CAO Gordon MacFarlane.
Coun. Jeff Sullivan was the first to jump on this and he was followed by councillors Tina Mundy and Cory Thomas. All three said this was the first they had heard of this city-struck hiring committee.
Holman’s explanation of the situation was unconvincing He said, it could be too “intimidating” for the applicants to be questioned by the entire city council.
The CAO is the most powerful, non-elected position in the city. It is the only position that is responsible to all of council. If any one of them would be intimidated by answering questions from council then he or she is not the right person for the job.
Every councillor has the right to be involved in hiring the right person for the job.
The issue here is why weren’t these three councillors told of the city-struck hiring committee?
Holman owes them and the public an explanation or, maybe the mayor does because he is the captain of the ship.
Another recent incident is the police manpower issue and again involves the chair of human resources.
He said the department is down eight to 10 officers due to illness, injury and mostly stress.
Again the same councillors were unaware that the situation was this serious.
The city is represented by eight councillors not just four and the mayor. Communication among councillors has to be a priority, whatever personal differences may or may not exist.