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Three strikes and still swinging

One could have been forgiven for thinking the comedy of errors that was the search for a chief administrative officer was finally over when, by a 4-3 vote, councillors chose Larry Adams in March.

[Originally published Oct. 20, 2013]

Like most major discretionary decisions by this council, it was controversial and divisive. And it ultimately proved to be wrong.

. . . continued

Adams was gassed five months into the new job. Sure, the Town’s announcement said he resigned “effective immediately” for “personal and family considerations.”

Following three closed session meetings over a couple of months, council voted unanimously to “direct the mayor to act in accordance to the instructions of Council.” Poof. Two days later, Adams tendered his resignation.

Make of it what you will.

It doesn’t matter why he’s gone. The important message is the CAO search has been an utter failure. The fact that the post is still vacant after more than two years is a failure in itself. The screwball antics associated with the search and Adams’ departure in September — whether voluntary or not — compounds the failure.

Shortly after Adams departed, Harry Schlange — the CAO who left two years ago — was hired for the same post at the Region and will take over Oct. 28 following a three-month search.

Who could blame him if he pointed out in his job interview that he was so good, it’s been two years and Fort Erie still hasn’t replaced him.

Adams was the third strike against the gang of four in this at bat.

The four councillors — Paul Collard, John Hill, Don Lubberts and Bob Steckley — insisted in July 2012 to hire a former public works director from Windsor who had resigned “effectively immediately” from his old job.

This was a person who would rather believe the insane musings of a blogger who vastly inflated Schlange’s salary than to check the Sunshine List and who subsequently priced himself out the door.

The four councillors then insisted the Town keep negotiating, with Collard saying that perhaps the CAO job was worth more. Schlange earned about $141,000.

No deal. Strike one.

It was also Ron Tripp’s first strike. He was the public works director who applied for the job and had been acting-CAO for a year. He had been the choice of the three other members of council, Mayor Doug Martin, Stephen Passero and Rick Shular.

The four then insisted that a new search be undertaken by a recruiting firm at a cost of $30,000.

Lubberts said the hiring of a CAO was the most important duty of council. “We need to make sure we do it right.”

Hill said retaining a recruiter would be the fastest and best way to find someone. “I want someone in that chair by Oct. 1,” he said. That was back in September 2012.

Thanksgiving goes by, Halloween passes and Christmas approaches. Another candidate is chosen by a vote of 4-3. This person declines the job.

Strike two for the gang. Strike two as well for Tripp, who gamely kept his name in the hat. He was also high in the recruiter’s assessment.

The four insisted the job wasn’t done and another search was started from scratch. The result after three months was another 4-3 vote, this time for Adams.

Tripp tipped his cap and said so long, accepting the third strike and immediately (the next day) taking a job as public works director in St. Catharines. A promotion by anyone’s standard, and presumably he doesn’t mind the commute from Fort Erie.

Adams didn’t make it past six months and the gang of four councillors swung hard and missed for their third strike.

Tripp had the good sense, grace and class to call it quits when the game was over for him, however unfair it was.

Meanwhile, this council is paralyzed. No substantive issues are being addressed — thankfully — and the policies being considered just get waved at, such as the recent official plan amendments for Ridgeway and Thunder Bay.

Four directors have hit the road, and the four councillors face a legal action for conflict of interest in the unwarranted firing of one of them.

Every time they open their mouths in council, laughing gas comes out. Not ha-ha-happy laughing gas either.

If they had an ounce of sense, grace or class, they would take Tripp’s example.


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