There are times when a pause is necessary to put one’s house in order, and for the District of Sicamous, this might be one of them.
Earlier this month it was announced that Sicamous council had terminated the district’s contract with former administrator Alan Harris. This coincided with the announced retirement of district corporate services manager Mary Geall. Last week we learned that community planner Steve Noakes has also given notice.
This thinning of administration has left district financial services director Ruth Walper acting as interim chief administrative officer (CAO) and corporate officer – all of which are mandatory municipal positions under the Community Charter, to be filled by one or more persons. Not to doubt Walper’s capabilities, but this is a substantial increase in workload given that it’s also budget time.
But the plight of existing administrative staff is not as concerning as the predicament council and, in particular, Mayor Darrell Trouton are now facing.
A community planner and CAO are intimately familiar with zoning bylaws and the official community plan, and typically provide guidance for council, assuring these critical foundations of municipal process are adhered to.
Then there’s a matter of public perception. During the recent municipal election, accusations were made publicly that Trouton was in the running to forward his own project, an affordable housing development that seemed perpetually stuck in the mire of political process. After the election, it was one of the first major development projects on the agenda for council’s committee of the whole.
Though positive change is good, so is trust and accountability.
The district and council is now scrambling to hire an interim CAO, to be followed with an assessment of corporate operations. Another positive step might be for council to defer all development decisions, or at least those related to the mayor’s development, until a new CAO is in place and up to speed. Though this will be frustrating to some, it may help alleviate public concern for potential conflicts of interest.