Resident expresses concern over lack of transparency in EDO reporting

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The issue of the Village of Merrickville-Wolford’s former Economic Development Officer (EDO) came up again at the council meeting last Monday evening. Resident, Patricia Watson, approached council at the first public question period, asking why the reports from former EDO, Jeff McNamee, never made it to the council table. When Jeff’s resignation was first announced, Mayor Doug Struthers told the gallery that he had left without preparing a report about what he had been working on as EDO. At a subsequent council meeting, Mayor Struthers issued a clarifying statement, saying that there was indeed a report delivered to the CAO, but at the time he didn’t know about it. “Why was it not forwarded to you, and why hasn’t it been made known to the public?” Patricia asked at the council meeting of September 9.

CAO, Doug Robertson, addressed the question, stating that he was advising council not to comment further on the matter. “Unfortunately, I have to advise council that we are under legal advice not to entertain that question, or discuss the issue any further as it relates to staff performance,” he said.

Patricia said she didn’t understand why her question conflicts with an employment issue. She referenced an article in the North Grenville Times which goes into detail about what Jeff did when he was employed with the municipality. “This is the kind of report I and others have been seeking,” she said. “Why haven’t we been given the reports on this man’s activity, because he’s been making them.”

Resident Dawn Dawson also approached council at the last meeting to express her concern about council waiving the personnel policy to expedite the process of finding a new EDO. Both Mayor Struthers and CAO Robertson assured her that proper interviews and vetting was being done of all the candidates. “In this case, the reason that I asked council to waive the policy is the grant project and funding ends at a fairly soon point,” he said. The funding for the RED grant ends at the end of March 2020, and council had only approved the budget for the municipality’s half of the EDO salary until the end of December 2019. “For us to go through the recruitment process again, it was essentially going to take so long that there wasn’t really going to be time left to complete the project,” he said.

While the process of hiring another EDO is underway, Doug says he doesn’t have any updates right now. “I anticipate briefing council before communicating anything public,” he says.

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