UPDATE: Cudahy steps down as economic corporation CEO

After seven months on the job, Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation CEO Susan Cudahy has stepped down from her position.

Cudahy arrived in Nanaimo last October to take over the new corporation, designed to streamline Nanaimo's economic development efforts using $1.3 million in taxpayers' money.

She was the first CEO of the fledgling NEDC, selected after an extensive head-hunting process by the firm Pinton Forrest and Madden that cost the city an estimated $30,000.

The corporation operates at arm's length from city hall, but has 17 board members and is under the watchful eye of a 13-member progress board, which includes three elected city representatives.

A.J. Hustins, NEDC board chairman, said only that the departure was mutual, but wouldn't elaborate on why Cudahy was not at her post for the last month.

"Both Ms. Cudahy and the board recognized that a change was needed," said Hustins. "All I'm going to say is that it was a mutual agreement."

Cudahy was the target of criticism in early April after it was discovered that NEDC, under Cudahy's initiative, secured an $8,800 contract with a Toronto web designer for work the corporation's tourism website. That non-local contract angered some, and Cudahy was reportedly accosted in a Nanaimo grocery store in front of her daughter and spat on by an angry resident.

Cudahy has been in Ontario, her home province, since mid-April. She was not available to comment on why she left, though a release issued by NEDC said she will seek new opportunities in Ontario while being closer to her family.

Hustins wouldn't say how much money in severance Cudahy will receive or if there is pending litigation surrounding her departure.

"We're obligated to follow current B.C. labour law standards and practices so we're doing just that," he said.

Coun. Fred Pattje, who sits on the NEDC progress board, said the corporation will continue to move forward with its mandate while searching for a new CEO.

"Both parties regret that change is taking place and so do I," said Pattje. "The other thing I'll say is we need to go forward, we need to find a new chief executive officer, and Progress Nanaimo will do its job. The bottom line is nobody is irreplaceable."

Hustins said a search firm will be retained to hire a new CEO.

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