Lantzville’s chief administrative officer has quit amid staff concerns about tone and decorum at district council meetings.
Twyla Graff, CAO, handed in her resignation April 1 after nine years as the top bureaucrat for the District of Lantzville.
The move also comes on the heels of a memo to council, signed by all five of the district’s managers, that highlights concerns around decorum and tone of council meetings, including ridicule and criticism of staff’s work in public and the “disrespectful nature” and delivery of comments made recently at an open forum.
Graff was unable to be reached for comment and it’s unknown if the memo and her departure are connected, but councillors call the two issues unfortunate, horrifying and concerning.
Two councillors are concerned about additional staff turnover.
“It appears council has created unbearable working conditions for staff and the CAO appears to have resigned as a result. There’s a strong possibility that we will lose other senior staff,” said Coun. Rod Negrave, who has concerns about the relationships with other government agencies, business dealings with the district and costs to the district and its taxpayers as a result of staff losses and disruptions.
Coun. Jennifer Millbank is also concerned about additional staff turnover and the impact in the broader community of Lantzville having a bad reputation.
The business of the municipality since the election has more or less come to a halt, council is struggling to pass a budget, consensus at the council table is lacking and now there’s a staffing issue, said Millbank, who is “absolutely horrified” about the memo and Graff’s departure.
“I am pretty distressed about the memo. It’s something that I’ve certainly witnessed and it’s not something I am part of,” she said.
“I think council needs to take this seriously.”
Coun. Graham Savage, who also worked as a consultant for a district in the past, said he has found Graff to be very professional, efficient and focused on trying to give good direction to council and while her resignation is “really unfortunate,” he doesn’t blame her.
He says a negative environment has been created – beginning with some election campaigning – and considers the memo a reflection of what’s going on.
The mayor needs to bring council together to deal with it, Savage said.
Mayor Colin Haime said council will decide what’s done with the memo and it’s incumbent upon them to take seriously any information that comes forward from residents or staff, but he doesn’t want to assume what managers are alluding to in their document and wants details about their decorum concerns.
To date, staff have not provided any and Haime doesn’t believe anybody can be held responsible without knowing the details.
It would also be incorrect to link the memo and resignation, he said, pointing out Graff’s resignation letter did not connect the two.
The district will work toward replacing its top administrator, according to Haime, who said he respects Graff’s decision and wishes her the best.