Org review done, but real issue remains

By: Korie Marshall, Editor

Was this a witch hunt? Did Valemount Council just spend $20,000 of our tax money to be told what they should have known in the first place – that Village Staff is doing well, and the big problem right now is between Mayor and CAO?

The report from the Organizational Review is on this week’s agenda, and it is careful to say the issue is the relationship between Council and CAO. But it does say that Council’s opinion of Yanciw’s performance is as split as the opinions of community members. It notes that the Mayor and CAO don’t meet regularly, as they should, and they have not developed a working relationship. The report doesn’t say exactly why they don’t meet, or why they haven’t developed a working relationship, but if you’ve noted how often Mayor Jeannette Townsend has interrupted and dismissed comments from Yanciw during Council meetings, or tried to blame “staff” for problems with her iPad and other items, you might have an idea.

And the report says Administration is spending considerable time trying to ensure Council members are working within the legalities of the Community Charter. Any chance this might be the members who are arguing about the definition of conflict of interest, who gets to decide who is in conflict, and are asking council to pay for private legal opinions and conventions they decide to go on all on their own? The report even notes that the municipality “stumbled somewhat” in initiating the org review in early 2015. That must have been really early, since the special meetings to authorize a $20,000 expenditure started in mid-February, and flew along quite quickly with support from the community and the administration, as well as Council.

What makes me think this was a witch hunt is that no one seems to have listed any solid reasons for disappointment in Yanciw’s performance besides the fact that she is not “qualified” – according to whose standards, I don’t know.
The report says that many CAO’s have very different qualifications, and some have done incredibly well with no formal qualifications. If qualifications really matter, all Council has to do is define that, and I’m quite sure Yanciw would be willing to do the training to get there. I’ve heard at least three of our local government interns comment that Yanciw’s dedication to professional growth is part of the reason they chose to come here. Staff feel appreciated and supported because of the team environment she has built and because of her leadership. The report even notes that some community representatives are apparently circulating a petition calling for Yanciw’s dismissal, which is highly unusual to say the least, and all members of Council should be distancing themselves from that process.

So Council has now spent $20,000, spent at least four months of staff time on the necessary meetings, information gathering, interviews, for this review, and we are no further ahead. Council still has not attempted to review or update their priorities or their expectations of the CAO. Now they have recommendations that they should do so, and make a decision on whether the Mayor and CAO can start building a working relationship, or if one of them has to go.

There is no cause to dismiss Yanciw, according to the review. I don’t think a petition would be either, but I’d love to see exactly who might have signed it, and I’d love to know how they would feel if their name was listed as the person to get rid of. That doesn’t mean Council couldn’t decide to dismiss Yanciw, without cause. It happens, especially with a CAO when there has been a change over in Council. We could just as easily see Yanciw resign, but I believe she is dedicated to this community and her work here, and the Village staff is equally dedicated to her. Losing Yanciw would be a massive blow to this community, because of the loss of the team environment, other staff that might follow her, and the sheer cost and work of trying to find a competent replacement, especially when Council hasn’t even started the background work to do that.

Council now has a big decision to make and a lot of work either way – to come to a consensus over whether Council and the CAO can work together, or if someone has to go. I hope they can find a way to work things out for the benefit of the community.

1 Comment

  1. I agree, but would go further Korie. Was this 20K review not foisted on Council by urgent calls for Special Meetings of Council (in February) to ammend the 2015 budget to pay for the exercise amid grand pronouncements of duty to always respect the public purse and the taxpayers hard earned dollars? Maybe to mask pedantic, unprofessional leadership, intransigence which is less than motive to serve the greater good of the community (unless someone might ‘always get her own way’ to paraphrase the memorable ‘I always win!’, opening shot comment made during one of the very 1st full meetings of the new Council)? The cost extracted from ratepayers for this exercise marginally justified. It more accurately panders to a childish desire for foolish games, not unlike the disagreeable suggestion that taxpayers fund individual Councillors to waste tax monies on alternative, cavalier, independant legal opinions whenever one wants, begs, or seeks adversarial legal opinion. Findings of the costly review, or witch hunt as you rightly put it, is that Valemount is already proactive and already the benefactor of having one of the very best legal consultant retainers, possibly in all of Canada working for this Village! As for initial call for the comparable educational background check, which 20K could not humour, or buy (as it turned out) to solicit comparasins of qualifications, experience, and expertise of the CAO and CO we have in place in Valemount today, which serves us well to advise Council- the wealth and excellence to draw upon is deep and vast! Possibly superior to that of one who pushed for this review. This Village for its size has attracted remarkably talented and a competent administration. No ‘organizational review’ was necessary to reveal the inevitable findings but did served to reinforce what was already, widely known. The Village cannot afford, either to squander scarce money resources lavishly (as the current PMO spends for outside, independent legal opinions amd affirmations for machinations and debacles of the PMO office) while Canadians pick up the tab! The Supreme Court has soundly trounced some receent, foolish and partisan opinions in a litany of examples. It’s a nice public distraction, a federal ploy to buy time until more useful, worthwhile endeavours for responsible and effective government is realized in the PMO, but does the average Valemount taxpayers really want to invite or open a floodgate or invite potentials for legal vulnerability?… foolish squandering of time or money to equip individual Councillors for unilateral ambitions or desire for a litigious Council? I hope not. Effects could be disastrous for this small community. Councillors are elected to act as a body, to cooperate, synchronize for a term of government, including the Mayor. If legal counsel is needed or requested it really needs to go through Administration and rightly so! We can be thankful that November elections saw our Village retain a vast intelligence, acumen and local experience of Councillors and Administrators. The staff we have at the Village Office serve us well. As a ‘whole’, McBride did not fare so well. Any game of dominos would be tragedy for Valemount at this crucial stage of development. The office is not over-staffed. We need exactly the team of 1st tier gatekeepers, staff and controllers of local treasury we have here. In the world of professionals there is always ongoing education and professional development. I hope for exactly this intelligence to guide and to advise Council on best practice, to contract and secure competent outside legal opinions as required by Council, not frivilously, but only as justified necessary.

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