Recently MMA was invited to comment on a media story related to public comments made by a Councillor about a member of our association.
Some of you have seen this story, so I wanted to take this opportunity to make clear our association’s position on the key elements of this story.
All Municipalities Should Offer CAO Performance Reviews
MMA believes that all Councils should establish formal and robust review processes for the CAOs. Such reviews should be structured, professional, engage all members of Council, and should be based in leading-practice for providing feedback and guidance to executive leaders. Such reviews should at least be annual, but ideally, be supported by more frequent updates and exchanges. They should be designed to identify and correct concerns in performance or organizational outcomes, clarify expectations, and mutually identify priorities and objectives. They should also be two-way, with the CAO being empowered to communicate concerns or barriers they have experienced that hamper their ability to perform at the level expected.
Public Criticism or Threats of Termination of Municipal Staff by Council Members Is Unacceptable
While it is absolutely the right of Council members to raise concerns about the performance of the municipality, publicly threatening to terminate a CAO or any other staff member amounts to workplace harassment. All municipalities must provide a professional mechanism for such concerns to be raised and addressed through practices that are consistent with the legal responsibilities the municipality has as an employer. Moreover, the municipality has a responsibility as an employer to protect all municipal staff, including the CAO, from such harassment.
This situation is part of a broader trend that we have seen. We know that a number of you have experienced similar treatment, including having candidates for local office make campaign commitments to “Fire the CAO”. While MMA does not have the ability to intervene directly in these situations, we continue to advocate for better relationships between Councils and Administrators, and we are committed to supporting this advocacy by working with the Province of Manitoba and AMM to provide better information, training, guidance, and tools to municipal leaders to facilitate better governance.
Our response to this media inquiry is part of this advocacy. Advocacy is not just a key pillar in our strategic plan, but also a core reason for the founding of our association.