No go on changes to city manager bylaw

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The city manager will not be required to apply to city council for permission to make administrative changes to the senior level of staff at the City of St. Albert.

Coun. Bob Russell was looking for a change to the city manager bylaw on Monday night. He asked council to vote on a motion that would amend the bylaw so the city manager would have to apply to council for permission for any changes to the senior level of the administrative organization.

His motion was defeated in a 4-3 vote.

The only council member comments aside from Russell’s arguments for his motion was Mayor Nolan Crouse clarifying what Russell meant by senior level.

Russell said he meant the top level of the organizational chart after the city manager.

Crouse also reminded Russell to keep his arguments focused on the motion when Russell gave a detailed recap around the controversial hiring of Gilles Prefontaine. The position Prefontaine was hired for was called the chief community development officer, a renamed version of the general manager of planning and engineering position.

Russell has contended that the changes to both the position name and qualifications was a big enough switch to warrant council attention ahead of time.

“One would expect that the city manager would want to meet with council and propose this new position to them,” Russell said.

Russell also went into some of the public reaction as well.

“All of this could have been avoided if the amendment I am proposing to the city manager bylaw had been in place,” Russell said.

Currently the city manager bylaw states that the city manager shall report to council on any changes made to the structure of the administration, but doesn’t say they have to seek permission.

The bylaw gives the city manager, who is council’s only employee, the authority to hire or fire any city employee and to manage the structure of the city administration, including creating, merging or eliminating city departments.

An attached administration report suggested that while it was within council’s right to amend the bylaw, “caution should be exercised in doing so in order to not result in the requirement of processes that could hamper the effective and efficient running of the corporation … If the city manager is going to be expected to keep the organization modern and relevant they would need the ability to manoeuvre unencumbered.”

Coun. Cam MacKay and Coun. Sheena Hughes both voted to support the motion. Mayor Nolan Crouse, Coun. Cathy Heron, Coun. Wes Brodhead and Coun. Tim Osborne voted against the motion.

This isn’t the only motion Russell has filed relating to the city manager’s powers or the chief community development officer position lately.

Russell recently gave notice of motions to withdraw funding for the chief community development officer as of Sept. 1 and for council to direct the city manager to recruit or appoint a general manager of planning and engineering with qualifications matching the profile of the position when it was advertised prior to the name change.

The motions are yet to be debated by council.

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