Summerside city councillors are in the process of interviewing candidates to fill the vacant chief administrative officer’s position. But prior to making a selection, civic officials have drafted and passed an administrative bylaw clearly specifying the duties and responsibilities inherent with the job.
The CAO is the most powerful non-elected position in municipal government. Every department head reports to the CAO who, in turn, reports to city council.
Issues with the CAO’s role came to council in December of last year. Resulting in council authorizing the city's external legal firm of McInnes Cooper to prepare a draft governance and administration bylaw that would establish the role, duties and functions of all municipal officials and employees, most importantly of all, the CAO. The bylaw also defines the council/administration relationship.
All policies that came under human resources were reviewed and it was discovered there was nothing on the books with regards to the CAO. Council feared that this lack of a governance and administration bylaw was a possible hindrance to the future of the city and could raise questions about government effectiveness.
Good governance relies on having all the information all of the time and at the right time to make the decisions that best benefit the city and its taxpayers.
The CAO is a main advisor to council and the head of operations for the city.
Council needs to make sure that each and every department, and especially the CAO, knows what is expected of them and what they can and cannot do.
There was nothing on the books to ensure this.
Now there is.
The new bylaw outlines exactly what the CAO is authorized to do on behalf of the city and what dollar limits the CAO can negotiate contracts under his or her own authority, versus having to come to council. Those dollar limits are in the vicinity of $50,000.
In the past it was up to $500,000.
Another feature of the administrative bylaw is the requirement for an annual performance review of the CAO, something that was not previously done.
This would be conducted by city council. They would monitor and review the CAO’s performance under the guidelines of the administrative bylaw.
The new bylaw is a good move on the part of the city and one that keeps policy control on the hands of elected officials, away from staff; and, hopefully, operations in the hands of management and out of the grasp of politicians.