Time is quickly ticking away toward the local government election this fall, but before all is said and done, this city council will still have some decisions to make.
An important one will be the hiring of an interim CAO.
The city has been without a chief administrative officer since the end of January after Tracy Samra’s arrest for allegedly making threats, and without a deputy chief administrative officer since the beginning of March after an investigation into “allegations of serious concern” and the eventual parting of ways with Victor Mema.
An interim CAO won’t only be a steward to help the city function from now until October. That’s part of the job, but a city manager isn’t subject to the same four-year terms and timelines as our elected municipal politicians. The right interim CAO could quite conceivably end up with a promotion to permanent CAO.
We think councillors need to put politics aside when they make this hiring. Whoever becomes chief administrative officer shouldn’t be chosen because he or she will be an ally of certain councillors. He or she will be working for all of council, who, by extension, are working for all citizens.
The chief administrative officer is often referred to as the sole employee of city council, and we have some concern that because of that distinction, council might not feel as if it has to be accountable to citizens with this hiring. It should be.
Missteps, or worse, have been made to lead us to this point, where an interim CAO is required at all. We know city staff have asked for new leadership. We’re pretty sure a lot of people in Nanaimo want it, too. The right interim CAO could certainly help to provide just that.