Morinville Council terminates CAO

by Tristan Turner

Morinville Town Council has terminated Debbie Oyazun’s position as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the Town after a tenure of nearly four years. In a press release issued to media after Tuesday night’s Council meeting, the Town stated her position was terminated without just cause, and that they had named Town CFO Andrew Isbister as Acting CAO until Council completes the hiring process to find a replacement.

Mayor Lisa Holmes had kind parting words for CAO Oyarzun, stating: “Council thanks Ms. Oyarzun for her service to the Town of Morinville. During her time, Ms. Oyarzun led the Town through many exciting initiatives. However, Council has decided that a change is required moving forward. We wish Ms. Oyarzun all the best in the future.”

Mayor didn’t expect this, talks about Council-CAO relationship as a factor

Speaking in an interview after the announcement, Mayor Holmes talked about her surprise at these developments.

“I don’t think anyone expects something like this or goes into a situation like this anticipating it. I think that as situations arise, they do. In this case, this was the decision that Council made for this moment in time, and I’m supportive of the steps that have been taken.”

Mayor Holmes added the decision had unanimous support of Council, and that while Councillor Nicole Boutestein was not present for the final vote Tuesday night, that she had indicated her “strong support.”

The Council-CAO relationship has been identified as being troubled in the past, with a recent review of the Town conducted by an outside contractor recommending a new framework to overhaul the relationship.

“We felt there needed to be a change in administrative leadership in a general sense,” Holmes said. “We have definitely felt that in this term we wanted to set a new standard for [the Council-CAO relationship], and that was a part of the Organizational Effectiveness and Efficiency Review. We were to develop a Council-CAO framework for the relationship, and that work has been undertaken as well over the last few months. And I think at this point, we’re really seeing the value of what that relationship means to a municipality, and we’re definitely committed to making that one of the priority projects that we have.”

Holmes said before Council starts the appointment of the new CAO, they need to make sure they have all the processes in place that Council could possibly need to be successful in the relationship moving forward.”

Responding to a question about if the relationship ended on good terms, Mayor Holmes responded saying, “We’re dealing with people here, and I think that in any situation with people there’s relationships, and there is emotion involved. This was a Council-led process, and in that case, this shows that it may not have been expected on her behalf, but she has been very professional, and we have nothing but the highest regard for her.”

Holmes said Council felt a change in administrative leadership was what was needed to be successful in projects moving forward.

The administration has expressed that the change in leadership will not have a significant impact on their day-to-day work and that it is “business as usual” at the Town.

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  1. Wish you and your family well in the future. Thanks for all of your hard work.

  2. Two letters in this weeks Gazette address an issue that people have been noticing for a few years already. St. Alberts pools are highly used amenities. What pool access would Morinville and County residents have if St. Albert was to choose a two tiered registration system? Something to think about as “we” plan the Town/Region Arena/Rec. centre. The Steering Committee is definitely recommending to the Council that this project be done right, with a pool among other things.

    In these economically challenging times, I wish Ms. Oyarzun all the best with her next endeavour and thank her for her contribution to Morinville. With or without a Town CAO, I hope for strong leadership in the Town and County Councils so we can seize this present opportunity. Now is the time to deepen the level of discourse regarding the future of the much needed Rec. Centre. The Inter Municipal Affairs Committee, recently formed between the two Councils, is perfectly situated to support this process.

    Stimulus packages, Infrastructure Grants, the Refinery coming on-line in 2017, the 150th Anniversary of Confederation in 2017…There will be resources available and there should be a Regional partnership and a plan in place. My discussions with offices in both Provincial and Federal government have explained that Grants will likely be outlined by May/June.

    The Morinville/Sturgeon Regional Recreation Facility Citizen Group has been insisting since September of 2015 that it is crucial for the Town and County to act now. Many groups and individuals before us have been asking for years. Please encourage your Councillor or Mayor to support this opportunity for a Regional project/partnership so another opportunity does not pass by. I think we may be overstaying our welcome in our neighbours pool.

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