The gallery was full of anxious residents at the last council meeting in Merrickville-Wolford, many of them looking for answers regarding the staffing issues in the municipality. The main concerns seem to be the length of the CAO investigation, which has been ongoing since January, and the cost it is incurring for the Municipality. Resident, Terri Hamway, stepped forward at the first public question period of the meeting on May 14, to voice her frustration at not receiving an answer to her request to know what has been spent to date on the investigation. She had received a reply from Mayor David Nash, referring her to Interim CAO Arie Hoogenboom, but did not hear back from him.
“I did not receive that request for information, otherwise I could have done the research and checked into it,” Arie said at the meeting. The costs being incurred due to the investigation include legal fees, fees for the workplace investigator, Arie’s hourly rate of $80/hour, and paying CAO John Regan’s salary of $120,000 per year while he is on leave.
“I have no problem releasing any information regarding paid invoices,” Arie said. “I will commit to having a report to council on all associated costs that I can release at the next meeting.”
Some residents feel that the investigation has been going on for far too long. Many wonder why there wasn’t a time limit assigned to the investigators when they were hired at the end of January. Arie says that the problem with putting a time limit on the investigation was that they didn’t know how many issues they would have to investigate, or people they would have to interview, to make sure everyone’s side was heard.
This issue has stirred up so much concern in the community, that some residents are fearful about how the municipality will be able to move on once the investigation is over. “How in the world do we move forward from this?” resident, Audrey Bridge, asked at the meeting. “It’s already been such a toxic thing. There needs to be an end to this, because it’s just escalating in the Village every week that this goes on. Everybody’s had it.”
Arie says the problem is that the investigation is an Human Resources issue, and, therefore, council and staff have very specific restrictions on what they can say while it is ongoing. That being said, Arie assured the gallery that there is a plan to bring some closure to this issue, and that everyone at the council table is anxious to do so. “There isn’t anyone here that doesn’t want this thing to be resolved fairly to all parties,” Arie said.