As Anmore residents get ready to head to the polls on Sept. 22 for a civic byelection, the councillor who stepped down and forced the vote is coming forward with more details about his resignation.
In June, rookie councillor Tim Laidler quit over the way council hired its new CAO (chief administrative officer).
At the time, he suggested the village hadn't followed the criteria set out in the job posting.
In an e-mail to The NOW last week, Laidler expanded on his reasons for quitting, again expressing concern with the process by which the CAO was selected.
Laidler wrote to The NOW: "The meetings to select the new CAO/Approving Officer were held in camera, after I objected to informal meetings being held at the White Spot. I particularly objected to informal meetings as there were no minutes being taken."
Laidler also suggested it took too long to decide on a CAO and suggested Mayor Heather Anderson had insisted the position required no formal education, CAO experience or municipal courses.
But Laidler's main claim surrounds his allegation of a leak during the in-camera selection process regarding the names of the three candidates who were short-listed.
He said "one or more councillors" were "approached and given negative information on the candidate who was the lead contender for the position." He also suggested support then increased for another candidate.
Laidler claimed that "Mayor Anderson did nothing to investigate" the alleged information leak from the in-camera meeting, and she "refused to invite the candidate who was in the lead to answer the allegations."
After four months as acting CAO, Tim Harris was hired on a permanent basis. He had worked for the village for 15 years before becoming CAO.
Laidler insisted his criticisms are not levelled at Harris, but rather the process of picking the CAO.
But the hiring decision appears to have split council.
Anderson is refuting Laidler's account and standing by council's decision.
However, she noted she had to be careful in her response because of the in-camera nature of the discussions.
The mayor said she took council out once to White Spot for breakfast in December after the civic election to discuss the general direction of the village, but she always expected the CAO hiring process to be held in-camera. She said three candidates were short-listed and the merits of each were discussed among council.
"We were trying to get to a consensus, but it became obvious that wasn't possible so we took a vote at the end," Anderson said. She also noted that, besides council, village staff and a hired consultant were all present during the incamera discussions.
When asked if anything was handled incorrectly during the process, Anderson replied: "No, not that I'm aware of."
Two other Anmore councillors are also defending the CAO hiring process.
Coun. Kerri Isaak said there was always an understanding the process would be done incamera.
"I feel we followed the process the way we were supposed to as a council and we tend to be fairly casual about things, but when it came to protocol, we did follow procedure," she said, noting a staff member was present during the discussion to ensure the rules were followed.
Isaak also suggested it's not unusual for councils to look for other information on a potential candidate being hired for a city job, whether it be through the Internet or speaking to someone active in the community.
"If I go and Google a candidate online, I'm receiving information from an online source - I think it's very hard to draw a straight line that way," she said.
Isaak said she partially blamed herself and council for not helping Laidler learn more about the process before he resigned.
Coun. Tracy Green said the process of hiring the CAO was similar to any other council decision, adding in this case, the issue was contentious and wasn't reached by consensus.
"I was happy with the process. I'm happy with the decision that we made," she said. "We had ample meetings and ample opportunity to voice our opinions, and bring forward issues that we felt needed to be addressed.
I don't see that process was done any differently than we've approached any other issue on council."
Green said she was not aware of any leaks from the in-camera meetings, adding she isn't sure where Laidler's claim is coming from.
Both councillors noted they needed to be careful in their response due to the in-camera nature of the discussion.
However, Coun. John McEwen agreed with Laidler's opinion that the process was flawed, suggesting he had concerns about council's ability to hire someone from the beginning. He said he advocated for a human resources firm to handle the process from the start, noting there were more than 30 applicants.
"It's such a vital position on the village, you want to make sure you get the absolute best candidate," McEwen said, adding he's not saying the CAO who was hired wasn't the best choice.
"The key point is that we hired somebody without even a specific job description, that was a challenge right from the start."
Though McEwen didn't call it a leak, he maintained information did come out at one of the meetings, which he did not attend, about another potential candidate. He said the information did have an influence on the final decision. In the end, McEwen said he accepted council's decision.
As for the byelection to replace Laidler, three people are running: Arthur Crossman, Sagheer Jan and Ann-Marie Thiele.