Now What?

In 2018 the Town of Turner Valley will be hiring a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). This may be a great time, for residents, to review what a CAO does and what the job is supposed to be. To do that I will use information from the Provincial Government and the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Responsibilities and Duties of a CAO

Sections 207 and 208 of the MGA detail the responsibilities and duties of a CAO. The principal function of a CAO is to act as the administrative lead of the municipality and to ensure all resolutions and bylaws of council are carried out efficiently and effectively.

The CAO serves as the link between council, which sets policy, and administration, which implements policy. The CAO is expected to understand the direction of council and ensure that programs and services are delivered following council’s mandate.

The responsibilities of a CAO require a high level of professional expertise, education, specific training and relevant work experience. Council should expect to receive in-depth analyses, options and preferred alternatives from this individual. (Document from Municipal Affairs on Hiring a Chief Administration Officer).

The CAO is the only employee of council. What that means is that, a CAO doing the job correctly should be working in harmony with the elected officials of the Municipality. The responsibilities and duties are clearly laid out in this document. I will attach the full version to this post.

The CAO serves Council and is expected to provide in-depth analyses, options and alternatives to Council. His administrative and operational staff should be required to provide the information that Council requests. These requests do not always need to be in the form of a resolution or motion. Frequently Large, time consuming and over budget items should be done by resolution. If Council requests to review a contract, then the CAO has a responsibility to provide that information. Information from prior Council decisions is and should be fully available to the new Council with very few or no limitations. If information is given to one Councillor it must by law be given to all Councillors. If a Councillor asks to see an organizational chart of the employees of the town then the CAO should provide that information. The CAO would likely provide the Organization chart but remove important personal data because of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

As Turner Valley looks to hire a CAO, I think it would be an excellent idea to have a clear view of our Towns current situation regarding connections with other organizations such as: our 2 utility corporations, many of our contracted service providers, our procurement policy, hiring policy, and process for approving contracts. One of the tools available to assist Towns is a Municipal Inspection. These Municipal Inspections can be triggered by Council or by the electors as in the case of Fort Macleod in 2015.These have been completed in many communities and can be reviewed on line. These are public documents.

http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/municipal-inspection-reports

I took the time to have a conversation with people from two firms that complete such reviews. The information was helpful and interesting. I have been advised that Municipal Inspections are not to be considered lightly. The costs for the inspection can be paid by the Local Municipality or the Provincial Government at the discretion of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.  It is my opinion, that Turner Valley needs a Municipal Inspection and a full financial audit to confirm the financial status of our community. To be clear that is only my opinion,  take it as only that, an opinion. Completing this work prior to a new CAO being hired would allow a full view of what the new CAO would be getting into and how best to help our community going forward. It would also clarify what the new Council has as a strategic plan for their 4-year term and beyond.

This section from the Fort Macleod 2016 Municipal Inspection Report explains what to expect from an inspection.

571(1) The Minister may require any matter connected with the management,

administration or operation of any municipality or any assessment prepared under Part 9

to be inspected

(a) on the Minister’s initiative, or (b) on the request of the council of the municipality.

(2) The Minister may appoint one or more persons as inspectors for the purpose of

carrying out inspections under this section.

(3) An inspector

(a) may require the attendance of any officer of the municipality or of any other

person whose presence the inspector considers necessary during the course of the

inspection, and

(b) has the same powers, privileges and immunities as a commissioner under the

Public Inquiries Act.

(4) When required to do so by an inspector, the chief administrative officer of the

municipality must produce for examination and inspection all books and records of the

municipality.

1 MGA, (2015). Municipal Government Act. Revised Statutes of Alberta 2000, Chapter M-26. Edmonton: Alberta Queen’s Printer.

 (5) After the completion of the inspection, the inspector must make a report to the

Minister and, if the inspection was made at the request of a council, to the council.

Directions and dismissal

574(1) If, because of an inspection under section 571, an inquiry under section 572 or an

audit under section 282, the Minister considers that a municipality is managed in an

irregular, improper or improvident manner, the Minister may by order direct the council,

the chief administrative officer or a designated officer of the municipality to take any

action that the Minister considers proper in the circumstances.

(2) If an order of the Minister under this section is not carried out to the satisfaction of the

Minister, the Minister may dismiss the council or any member of it or the chief

administrative officer.

 For clarification, the following definitions are provided in reference to the above MGA

sections:

Irregular:        Not according to established principles, procedures or law; not normal;

not following the usual rules about what should be done.

Improper:       Deviating from fact, truth, or established usage; unsuitable; not

appropriate; not conforming to accepted standards of conduct.

Improvident: Lacking foresight; taking no thought of future needs; spendthrift; not

providing for, or saving for the future; not wise or sensible regarding money.

It may be that Turner Valley would have an A+ report with no irregular, improper or improvident issues. If that proves to be the case that would be fantastic news. It is, however, necessary to know our status in 2018 in order to plan for the future. It is not possible to make a plan fur the future without knowing where were we are truly starting from. Do we want a new Recreation facility? Can we afford a new facility? Do we want better water supply? Can we manage the budget and make real decisions to get a better more reliable water supply? Does our sewer system need to be upgraded? How do we plan for that and what are the priorities? Spending decisions we make now will affect what we can build in the future. The tax payers pockets are not bottomless. We will need to make hard decisions. To best make those hard decisions for tomorrow, we need to know the entire story of where our Town of Turner Valley stands today.

Hiring_Chief_Administrative_Officer

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