Culture Of Fear At Town Hall Justified After CAO Termination
Moments after she was terminated (yes we said terminated) we were inundated with tips about the event. After some confirmation and fact checking we broke the biggest story of the year – so far. Now, after we have had time to dig deeper with our sources more shocking details have emerged.
In a follow-up to the sudden “parting of ways” of Carolyn Tripp, Midland’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) from her position held since 2013, we were provided a copy of the press release circulated by the Mayor shortly after we broke the story online.
Gord McKay’s release states “On January 19th, 2016, Ms. Carolyn Tripp left her position as CAO for the Town of Midland. The Town thanks her for her contributions to the municipality and wishes her every success in her career.”
One of our sources said “Why she needed to be humiliated in front of all the town staff and marched out with her box of belongings is beyond all of us. She managed to hug a few colleagues and then was escorted out like a common criminal”.
Usually that is a tactic employed to send a clear message to everyone who witnesses it. Perhaps some tact could have been employed unless the clear absence of tact was the message that the Mayor wanted to send to the rest of his staff.
Another source shared that “She was on some kind of work review and felt that they [mayor and council] were gunning for her and a few others in the office”. The source also said that “the culture of fear and disrespect we read about at GBGH [local hospital] is nothing new to town staff who have been walking on eggshells for months wondering who was being fired next”.
If this termination (or parting of ways) was justified then the Town of Midland should come clean to its citizens about why the top job is now vacant. This CAO has seen Midland through many major changes since coming on board. If her termination was “justified” then we should not discover any exorbitant legal fees or settlements added to our 2016 budget. If her termination turns out to be “unjust” then we will be on the hook for tens of thousands in legal fees as well as large settlement awards.
Council and the Mayor have the authority to make this call, but let’s hope, for our financial well-being, that they dotted their “I” s and crossed all their “T”s, followed protocol for acceptable HR practices and have excellent documentation to support it.
If the CAO became a liability to the Town then we support the decision and wish her well elsewhere. However, if she was discarded by the Mayor after doing his bidding thus far (as we are led to believe by sources in his office) simply because she could not meet his expectations, then we are going to pay dearly and the culture of “who’s next” will only fester and have every staffer watching over their backs instead of concentrating on the critical business of running this town.
With so many questionable hirings, firings, retirements and the restructuring over the past three years, many of which were executed either by Ms Tripp or under her guidance, we are left to question everything that we see and hear coming from Town Hall.
We cannot be absolutely sure what happened with Carolyn Trip yet but it would seem that any manager that does not “cut budget” as far as Council thinks they should, gets the axe.
Bill Molesworth (our now former Chief Librarian and CEO) wanted more cleaning staff when they doubled his square footage and disagreed that the place could be run entirely with volunteers and then they cut his information technology support. Now he’s gone.
Kevin Foster (our former Fire Chief) couldn’t cut the fire budget deep enough to satisfy council. He’s gone in one of those mysterious “parted ways” deals. His shared replacement, Paul Ryan, another accomplished veteran of the fire service is now tasked with finding the “efficiencies” (by spring 2016), that Kevin Foster could not find without cutting services – a move that only Council could direct and would not accept despite his repeated attempts to make that crystal clear. It seems that they are setting up Paul Ryan for failure.
In Mayor McKay’s latest humiliation, Council rejected his 75th percentile exercise that would have seen major service level cuts, the selling of many town assets (the MPUC is still on the table and he is championing this one personally) and the suspension of major needed capital improvements in the community.
It was defeated by a motion brought forward by Councillor Strathearn whose motion was just what many other councillors were waiting for to stop the madness. The only problem was that his motion demanded that the cuts needed to obtain the hallowed 75th percentile tax rate be placed squarely on the shoulders of town staffer’s salaries and benefits.
While this was actually offensive to several councillors we spoke with, it was the only way to stop the asset sale in the Mayor’s plan. Maybe Carolyn couldn’t find any more efficiencies and refused to gut the town’s staff any further to appease a tax rate cut that borders on fantasy and only helps the most wealthy in the community and hurts the rest of the town who depends on those services.
Maybe that is why she is gone?
The reality is simply that the only way to really cut the budget is by changing service levels. Council is able to lower staff numbers by reducing hours or the size of the operation, or changing the delivery model. Council actually holds all of the cards in relation to staffing. They could simply vote to close a portion of the library, thereby reducing the footprint and the staff required. In relation to Fire, they are the only ones that can change the fire model Midland has enjoyed for more than a century, and that is the only way to reduce full-time staff.
The Fire Chief (past and present) couldn’t cut firefighters even if he wanted to.
It might be time to stop looking at the managers of each individual department that have little control over these decisions, and start looking at Council who has all of the control and is unable or unwilling to make those decisions. Maybe some of them should be “gone”.
As we’ve said previously, maybe it’s “Sunny Days” for Canada under our new “dear leader”, but the forecast looks like “dark days” ahead for Midland and what’s left of the moral of dedicated town staffers who work hard for the community as politicians come and go at the whim of the electorate.
Now we hold our breath and see who they can find to replace the CAO. Who would want that job in such a toxic environment? No matter what it pays. At the moment and in the present atmosphere, there isn’t enough “sunshine” on the list.