It leaves more questions than it does answers. Is this the best way for a new council to get off to a flying start?
Three weeks ago, the city announced the departure of chief administrative officers Debbie Comis, via a press release on its website.
No further context was given.
“City staff appreciate the connections that Debbie made at all levels of the organization and wish her well in the future,” it stated, noting the appointment director of administative services, Keeva Kehler, as acting CAO.
Kehler has a 12-month agreement to operate as CAO, according to Mayor Ed Mayne.
The release mentioned Comis’ work history, 25 years working with the City of Burnaby and eight years with the Town of Mackenzie before joining the City of Parksville as director of administrative services in July of 2011. That’s it.
Then, last week, Mayne said council has agreed not to speak on the specifics of Comis’s departure.
“This council is moving at a very quick speed in a lot of areas and we want somebody that’s going to keep up with us,” Mayne said. “We want somebody that knows what all the rules are, what we can and cannot do. We need somebody that’s going to work very closely with council, that’s the important part.”
For her part, Comis said she thought the decision was politicial, based on council’s belief that she was somehow “responsible for the current status of the supportive housing project” at 222 Corfield.
“Parksville city council made a decision, which they are entitled to do, that I was not the person they wanted as CAO for the city,” Comis said. “As CAO and council’s only employee, it is not uncommon when a complete change of council takes place for the CAO to be terminated without cause so that a council has the opportunity to put in place a person who they believe is better-suited to carry out their vision for the city. I believe this is what happened in this case.”
We understand it was council’s prerogative to move on. We understand the fact there are often confidentiality agreements in place in situations like this.
But how much, if any, will it cost taxpayers? Why now? What exactly is happening with the Corfield project?
So many questions.
Mayne said what he and council look for in a new CAO is someone who will “move with us.”
Here’s hoping there will be continued transparency from new council so they can move with all of us, as well.