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Fort Erie’s CAO saga continues

The search for a new chief administrative officer has so frustrated Mayor Doug Martin that he withdrew from town council’s recruitment committee shortly after a closed council session in December when councillors learned the top candidate would not sign and decided to start a third search.

Also in that meeting, Councillor Stephen Passero’s motion to offer the job to someone else was defeated.

That someone else is thought to be Ron Tripp, the Town’s infrastructure services director who has filled in as acting-CAO since August 2011 when Harry Schlange left to take a job elsewhere.

Councillors voted 4-3 to deny Passero’s motion and voted 4-3 again to keep looking. The four councillors are Bob Steckley, John Hill, Don Lubberts and Paul Collard.

It was the second time the top candidate in separate recruitment searches for the position did not pan out and the second time Tripp was passed over.

Councillors tripped up on CAO search

Martin issued a written statement Dec. 18  announcing his decision to step away from the committee on which Hill and Steckley also sit.

He wrote that Tripp is qualified, experienced and lives locally and would be able to immediately settle in the job and tackle the large projects ahead.

“The problems confronting Fort Erie cannot sustain months, if not a year or more, in the learning curve that would be required by any new candidate,” the statement reads.

Martin also noted that the Town may face legal action “if any further initiative other than a good-faith offer to Ron Tripp for the position of CAO” is taken.

“This is not fair play. This is not the quality of life that we promote in Fort Erie . . . it is completely unprofessional to ignore a loyal, capable and respected professional like Ron Tripp.”

Tripp was appointed acting-CAO shortly after Schlange left. After a year-long search conducted by town staff, council — in a 4-3 vote in July — chose a former public works director for Windsor, Dev Tyagi, as the permanent replacement.

However, he wanted $30,000 a year more than the $141,000 Schlange earned and council decided in a poll taken by email to withdraw the offer.

Tripp was the next leading candidate but council — in another 4-3 vote — decided to renew negotiations with Tyagi which ultimately failed.

After negotiations ended with Tyagi, council voted 4-3 to not only bypass Tripp again, but to hire a recruitment firm at a cost of $30,000.

Hill, Steckley and Martin were chosen to sit on a committee to oversee the recruitment. It met with leading candidates and recommended some for a second interview with the entire council.

The second interviews were conducted at White Oaks in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Dec. 7, and the decision to offer employment was made in another closed session during a regular council meeting on Dec. 10.

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