County Council at odds over interim CAO hiring and contract

By Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County – Tempers flared among Sturgeon County Councillors Tuesday on the matter of solidifying and ratifying Peter Tarnawsky’s contract as Interim Chief Administrative Officer.

Tarnawsky, who had previously been employed as manager of public services, had some involvement in the County’s intervention during the Alberta Utilities Commission’s Heartland Transmission Line hearings. He was subsequently fired by Sturgeon County’s previous CAO, Chris Micek. After Micek’s resignation a few weeks later, Tarnawsky was invited back as interim CAO. Tarnawsky’s approval in that capacity was the result of a 4-1 split vote of Council held the evening of Nov. 8. However, solidifying that agreement Dec. 13 resulted in some apparent old wounds being opened and exposed by members of Council.
After Councillor Tom Flynn made the motion, Councillor Don McGeachy publicly questioned if anyone had received an explanation as to why the County’s closing arguments at the AUC’s Heartland Transmission Line hearings were specifically worded “build without delay,” a position the County had not previously espoused.

Councillor Ken McGillis challenged McGeachy’s line of questioning stating the AUC matter was not relevant in the matter of Tarnawsky’s contract as interim CAO. McGeachy countered arguing the AUC matter was specifically why he was not in support of the motion to hire Tarnawsky when it came forward Nov. 8 and that he wanted to make the matter public. McGeachy was the sole opposing vote in the Nov. 8 vote to hire Tarnawsky as temporary replacement for Micek.
Councillor David Kluthe questioned whether Tarnawsky’s severance package as manager of public services would be paid back if the contract as interim CAO was approved. “It’s the taxpayer’s money,” Kluthe said. “I think they have a right to know. I’m of the impression it’s close to $100,000.”

Mayor Don Rigney also expressed his concern about hiring Tarnawsky and said a valid issue existed both with respect to Tarnaswsky’s performance at the AUC hearings and with respect to the late night vote to bring him back as interim CAO.
“It was decided against my opposition,” Rigney said, adding he felt the AUC issue was relevant to the discussion of Tarnawsky’s contract. “We spent $400,000 of tax payer’s money and we’ve yet to receive a cogent explanation of why the final argument went in as it did.”

Councillor McGillis said the mayor was out of order with his line of discussion and called a vote to silence that discussion. That vote was carried 4-3, with the mayor and Councillors Kluthe and Rigney in favour of his continuing the line of argument.

“I think this is very undemocratic, but that is what the majority has decided,” Rigney said after being censored.
Councillor McGillis said the AUC hearing was a matter he had no problem having a public discussion about; however, he argued the mayor had never exercised his right to add it to the council agenda.

Rigney countered with an accusation that councillors had held the possibly illegal vote on Tarnawsky’s return after a public hearing Nov. 8 to keep the decision out of the public eye.

“You walked out of the meeting and you did not even participate,” McGillis shouted at Rigney, a reference to Rigney and Councillor Kluthe’s departure from the Nov. 8 meeting prior to the vote. Rigney defended his departure by saying he had no intention of participating in what he saw as bad governance and an unethical voting process.

Council then voted 4-3 in favour of confirming and ratifying Tarnawsky’s contract as interim CAO, a position that is scheduled to run two to six months, and one Councillor Don McGeachy disclosed as carrying a $15,000 per month salary. The vote to ratify the contract was opposed by Councillors Kluthe, McGeachy and the mayor.

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  1. And the circus continues, so typical of the Mayor to complain about something after leaving a meeting where he could have had his position identified but because he was not getting his way got up and went home.
    I have grandkids that are more mature than that!
    But after personally seeing Mr.Rigney perform as a councilor and mayor for seven or eight years and criticizing similar behavior on numerous occasions I was ENCOURAGED to retire.
    It’s been a long time coming but finally common sense prevails with the majority of Council.

  2. Upon further reflection of the comments made by council members opposed to the hiring of Peter Tarnawsky, they should be censored for making such inappropriate statements. It is a fundamental tenet of municipal government that once a motion is duly passed by a majority of Council no member of that Council should speak out publicly against that motion. It does in fact become the position of the entire Council. If the dissenters cannot agree to this basic rule then they are not qualified to remain in their position and should resign immediately.
    And how can the Mayor say ” this is very undemocratic ” and in the same breath say ” but this is what the majority has decided “.
    And after such a short time we are back to dysfunctional again!!

  3. Wayne Bullock are you serious? Because council tries to understand where Sturgeon County tax payers monies are going, you decide to take out a person vendetta against the Mayor. Who is immature? Sour grapes are all you have to offer then perhaps you should do some self reflection on what motivates you. I would say quite simply you are a disgruntled individual with your own agenda. Personally I applaud the group for questioning the spend. ‘THAT’S WHY THEY WERE ELECTED’.

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