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.