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Fourth executive leaves Town post

13/03/26 — The fourth executive in two years has left the Town of Fort Erie.

Unable after three tries to convince four town councillors that he should be Fort Erie’s permanent CAO, Ron Tripp walked.

Director of infrastructure services since 2005, and acting chief administrative officer for more than 18 months, Tripp starts his new job in April.

His former employer, the City of St. Catharines welcomes him back to now assume the post of director of transportation and environmental services.

His new job paid about $7,000 a year more in 2011 than the CAO post was worth in Fort Erie that same year.

Harry Schlange vacated the CAO job in August 2011. Tripp was tapped to fill in. He also applied for the permanent job.

A year later, after an exhaustive nation-wide search, four people were short-listed. Tripp was among them and the four town councillors blackballed him — even Paul Collard who was the only councillor who did not participate in the interviews.

The successful candidate did not take the job, reportedly wanting $30,000 a year more than was offered for the $140,000 job.

Then a recruitment firm was hired, to be overseen by a committee composed of councillors Bob Steckley and John Hill and Mayor Doug Martin. The two councillors are among the faction of four who were opposed to Tripp.

Another successful candidate refused the job and again the four councillors snubbed the acting-CAO, who by that time was about 15 months into the job and in the midst of his second budget.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure services department was short-staffed while engineering manager Tom Kuchyt filled in for Tripp.

The recruitment firm was told to keep looking, which prompted the mayor to quit the committee and call upon the Minister of Municipal and Affairs to investigate the conduct of councillors in closed session meetings.

Another round of interviews were conducted and council went into closed session on March 4 and made a choice which wasn’t disclosed to the public. Two days later, Tripp gave his notice.

The Town wasted no time filling the director’s job, and Kuchyt accepted the position. Now the engineering manager’s job is vacant.

The staff changes at Town Hall have been significant. Four of the top seven jobs have been vacated, voluntarily and not.

The planner, Rino Mostacci, took a high-level job with the Town of Markham in May 2011. He was replaced in short order by Rick Brady who originally joined the Town a little earlier to replace a manager who had retired. A few other lower level staff in planning also left.

Heather Salter, the director of legal and legislative services, was inexplicably fired in April 2012 and was paid a large settlement. Her dismissal came about by a 4-3 vote with Steckley, Hill, Paul Collard and Don Lubberts polarized against Martin, Stephen Passero and Rick Shular.

Her position has not been filled and legal work beyond the capacity of the law clerk is being farmed out.

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