Sarnia is not in “crisis mode”.
That is the view of Chris Carter, Sarnia’s new Chief Administrative Officer and one that is firmly endorsed by Mayor Mike Bradley.
Carter, who met with First Monday for a sit down interview at a restaurant near his Stoney Creek home in late March views Sarnia as heading in a “progressive” direction.
“I’m not looking back; I’m looking forward,” he told First Monday rejecting suggestions from outgoing Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze that Sarnia is in a “crisis mode” following the departure of several high level administrative staff in recent years.
Six senior managers have resigned since 2016 including former CAO Margaret Misek-Evans and Finance Director Lisa Armstrong noted Swayze in his final report to Council last month. But Carter doesn’t see that as a problem.
He will replace Misek – Evans and Suzanne Dieleman from Malahide Township near London has replaced Armstrong. Dieleman has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and Carter was Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in the Niagara Region before leaving just prior to Christmas.
Sarnia still needs to hire a lawyer to replace Scott McEachran who left in January and a planner.
Carter will assist in finding replacements.
“I want an open door policy and transparency,” Carter told First Monday “as we build a team I want to engage the public and media and increase customer service”.
He reiterated his belief that Sarnia isn’t in a “crisis mode” and needs to move forward.
Bradley says, “there isn’t a crisis, the public doesn’t believe there is a crisis and we have moved on”. He suggests the only crisis exists in the mind of the former Integrity Commissioner noting that if there was a crisis the Federal and Provincial Governments wouldn’t be “handing over money”.
In recent weeks the City received $10.6 million from Ottawa for improvements at Sarnia Airport and for sewer separation. It also received $27 million from the Province for transit upgrades over the next 10 years.
“The only crisis exists in the minds of people who want to create a crisis,” says Bradley.
Carter, who will be paid “about $165,000.00” says he will surround himself with people who have a good relationship with Council and the public. “I’m looking forward to understanding the team at City Hall and developing an execution plan”.
Carter was being sought by Newmarket when Sarnia moved in and made him an offer.
Bradley says Newmarket was offering more money but Sarnia is closer to Carter’s family in London and Kincardine. He says he is looking forward to working with the new CAO. “I’m happiest as Mayor and don’t have to think about the CAO”.
In fact, Bradley says he would like to go back to the City Manager title. “It reflects more of what the job is all about”.
As for Swayze, and for that matter Integrity Commissioners in general, Bradley says the Province needs to develop some rules. “It is the wild west out there. Integrity Commissioners make up their own rules, there isn’t a process, politicians can’t cross examine accusers and there isn’t any way to appeal”.
In his final report Bradley says Swayze violated the privacy of members of Council and the Municipal Act by commenting on a Code of Conduct complaint filed by former City Councillor Matt Mitro.
Mitro’s complaint against Bradley and Councillors Bill Dennis, David Boushy and Margaret Bird lists 38 pages of Code violations. However, Bradley says neither he nor the other Councillors have been served notice by incoming Integrity Commissioner Paul Watson of Chatham. “I haven’t read it and haven’t officially received it, yet there it is in Swayze’s report”.
In addition to his report Swayze submitted a final bill of $17,200.00. Only $10,000.00 was budgeted.
Bradley believes a detailed accounting is needed before the City issues a cheque.