A letter by interim CAO, Arie Hoogenboom was presented to council at their meeting of July 23, in response to a few of the public’s questions regarding the investigation into the municipality’s former CAO. The questions had been raised in an open letter to Council by unnamed residents of Merrickville-Wolford, and was published by The North Grenville Times in the issue of July 4. It voiced the frustration of several residents about the lack of information being given about the investigation into allegations against former CAO John Regan.
“In the spirit of openness, accountability and transparency, all principles which the Mayor and Council have indicated they wish to adhere to, and to permit this experience to be a learning one for this and future Councils, we believe that answers are needed,” the letter stated. It outlined fifteen questions that they believed should be answered, most of them concerning the length, cost and process of the investigation.
Before he left his position as interim CAO, Arie addressed these concerns, and it was part of the agenda at the last council meeting. Before he briefly answered the questions, he included a pre-amble which reminded residents of the sensitive and confidential nature of the investigation and dissuaded them from pursuing the issue further with access to information requests. “Given the scope of this investigation, such requests would consume considerable staff time, Village costs and personal and legal information will not be released,” Arie stated in the letter.
In the section answering the letter’s fifteen questions, Arie said that many of the decisions surrounding the investigation were dictated by the County and by Human Resource professionals. There was no committee or RFP put out for the workplace investigator due to the time sensitive nature of the work. He noted that the investigator was not controlling the cost of the investigation, and that $75,000 was put aside in the 2018 budget to cover the fees involved. The total cost of the investigation, along with the employment of Nigel White as interim CAO/Treasurer, Arie’s services, the workplace investigator, and legal council was $156,114.
Upon completion of the workplace investigator’s report, all council members, except Chuck MacInnis who was on vacation, were given time to review the report. Arie’s letter stated that the Councillor had been given the time to review it at a subsequent meeting. However, at the council meeting, Chuck MacInnis was adamant in saying that he was not given sufficient opportunity to do so. “I do want that section struck, because it is not true,” he said at the meeting. He also had issue with the answers to questions thirteen and fourteen of the residents’ letter, which dealt with council being privy to staff interviews and the details council was given about the nature of the investigation itself.
Arie stated in his response that “no members of Council nor the Mayor were present at any of the staff interviews, which were all conducted as one on one by the investigator”, and that äll members of Council were aware of the reasons for the investigation”.
“I also don’t believe that the acting, interim, or full CAO should be telling members of the public they shouldn’t be asking questions because it takes staff time and costs money,” Chuck said regarding the letter. “They should be asking questions because we are the caretakers of the Village, not the owners of it.”
The letter was sent back to staff to be reviewed and amended as needed. “This is an opportunity for larger clarity,” said Deputy Mayor Anne Barr. “A more formal report would be of benefit.”
Arie’s full letter can be found in the council meeting package of July 23, 2018 on the Village of Merrickville-Wolford’s website.