Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Where have all the Town Staff gone?

Posted by auroracitizen on August 25, 2008

Senior staff at the Town Hall are leaving at an alarming rate. Since our new Council started, under the much vaunted open and transparent leadership style of Mayor Phyllis Morris, we have lost our Director of Planning, Director of Legal Services, Director of Public Works, Director of Corporate Service (leaving this year), and now the CAO. That’s 5 of the 8 person Management Team.

The years of experience lost are significant and the costs associated with recruitment, re-training and lost opportunities without these people in place is immeasurable. The termination costs will also be considerable given the CAO had over 3 years left in his contract.

Of equal concern is the abrupt manner of the recent departure of the CAO, a well-respected member of the municipal community who the previous Council hired for a 6 year contract to provide consistent leadership for the town. It has been reported he was “escorted” from the building.

What may be more telling is that two councillors were unable to participate in the decision as one was recuperating from surgery and one was on vacation. Given that Council was informed in advance that the two councillors would not be present, why did Council go forward so abruptly with a decision with such far-reaching implications without a full Council present?

Why the urgency? Why not wait until all of Council could be present and a “special meeting” be called. The mayor has called 4 “emergency” closed session meetings this summer so far, what difference would one more make? The implication is clear — a swift decision was made and executed.

The impact on staff morale should also be of great concern. One has to wonder if this is a purge or is there some staff-wide malaise that has caused all these departures.

At this point, the only members of the Senior Management team from last term still standing are Al Downey, Director of Leisure Services and John Gutteridge, Director of Finance/Treasurer. I guess we will just have to await their fate.

Maybe I’m the only one concerned about the state of affairs at town hall, let me know.

Use the links below to comment or to send this post on to other interested Aurorans.

16 Responses to “Where have all the Town Staff gone?”

  1. Anonymous said

    Don't forget… on April 24, 2008 Councillor Grace Marsh also resigned and the following was a quote from the Era Banner (lest we forget that there may be a well established pattern here):

    In a media release issued yesterday, however, she alluded the atmosphere on council is unprofessional, ineffective, fragmented and lacking of any direction for senior staff.
    “When I ran for council, it was never my intention or expectation that I would not fulfill my commitment,” she said.
    “I did, however, fully expect a schedule that would be manageable … I also expected an atmosphere of respect for others and their opinions; a working atmosphere similar to most business environments where discussion can and does take place without anger, threats and insults,” she said.
    Decisions should be based on what is best for the town rather than personal agendas, Mrs. Marsh added.
    “To various degrees, these are not the realities of the current Town of Aurora council,” she said.
    “Whether it is a case of my expectations not being reasonable or whether there is a unique
    atmosphere this term, I personally felt it was a situation I could no longer tolerate.”

    She cited excessively long council meetings bogged down by ineffective debates with rebuttals made after each point and a complete disregard for information submitted by staff.
    “There is a weird perception among some current councillors that their actions should not be subject to critique,” Councillor Evelyn Buck wrote in her blog Sunday, adding Mayor Phyllis Morris “shrieked” and verbally abused Mrs. Marsh after one closed-door meeting, shouting, “How dare you, don’t you dare”.

  2. Anonymous said

    It should now be readily apparent that the lunatics are running the asylum.

    For anyone not paying attention, the lunatics would be PHyllis and the sycoPHants.

    As Councillors Buck and Collins-Mrakas were not at the meeting where the CAO was terminated, they would not be included in the sycoPHants category.

    So, my suggestion is that we replace the term “Councillor” with “sycoPHant”. For example “sycoPHant Granger”.

    Maybe that will help them wake up and realize that they were elected by the citizens of Aurora, to represent the citizens of Aurora – not to be a PHyllis TOADY.

  3. Anonymous said

    Would you not wonder why they left…took better offers and/or retired…do you honestly think that anyone would voluntarily abandon a well run ship…

    Dir of Public Work, Manager of Engineering, Dir of Planning, CAO of the Library, Heritage Planner, Economic Development Officer, Town Clerk, Town Solicitor, CAO, Finance Clerk, IT Personnel, Town Clerk’s Assistant, HR Manager…

    The attrition rates at Town Hall are obscene…Seeing as “council” does not work in Town Hall..That only leaves one paid Council person in the office…every day….The Mayor

  4. Anonymous said

    Anonymous said “I too hate to see good people let go. In fairness to the Mayor and Council the majority of those who left, chose to go ie. moved, retired, better offers. To imply that all were terminated or forced out is patently wrong.”
    Missing in the statement was they were tired of the BS from Morris and especially McEachern, who seems to be an expert in law, finance, marketing,planning and just about everything else. More so than the individuals hired because of their expertise.

  5. Evelyn Buck said

    Some months ago, Mayor Morris was quoted in The Era Banner as being “in favour of freedom speech but people can’t just say what they like”

    It was the Mayor’s response to something else I said which was did
    did not sit well with her Highness. It was classic Morrisism; a complete contradiction.

    I have lost count of the times she has screamed “Emergency!Emergency! and called in a variety of lawyers to advise on comments or phrases used made within my authority as an elected memberof council.

    My comments are dismissed as “unfounded allegations” or ” bolderdash” , “fanning flames”or undermining the work of the righteous Mayor and her cohorts.

    I have served with Phyllis Morris for five years. I have ring side seat to her conduct in public and behind the scenes.
    I am sure it will come as no surprise to the lady to know she enjoys neither my confidence nor my trust.

    I believe I am in a better position than most residents to make that observation.

    I also believe nothing is pursued or permitted except that it will result in the promotion of that lady’s political fortunes.

    In normal political practice . one does not normally make such unequivocal statements. One should always anticipate the need for civil interaction.

    After twenty-one months of Morris in the Mayor’s chair, I have no hopes of the exercise of rational judgment

    The only thing left is public interaction.And that only if a full view of matters is presented.

    Improvement is not a certainty. We saw how strong public sentiment in favour of a by-election to fill the vacancy left by Grace Marsh’s resignation, was swept aside with neither respect nor regard by Mayor Morris and her adherents.

    Once again a lawyer was retained at public expense to lend force to
    their arguments.

    Neither Aurora nor any other municipality has ever observed such bizarre behaviour.

  6. proud auroran said

    nice rebuttal Phyllis,but the correct spellings are ‘balderdash’ and ‘substantiated’.

    History might absolve Attila the Hun too, but no one is holding their breath.

    Now holding your nose around the antics of this Mayor and her gang of five, that’s another matter.

  7. Anonymous said

    I too hate to see good people let go. In fairness to the Mayor and Council the majority of those who left, chose to go ie. moved, retired, better offers. To imply that all were terminated or forced out is patently wrong.

    I don’t believe in censorship, but I question the wisdom of Councilor Buck who fans the flames of such bolderdash. The sword you wield cuts both ways and implies that some very capable people were forced out for one reason or another. I believe it more accurate and less damaging to former staff’s reputation to refrain from making allegations that aren’t substansiated.

    The Mayor and Council are doing an admireable job to clean things up, despite Councilor Buck’s continued attempts at undermining their efforts. For the most part they have inherited many of these issues from previous councils and they shouldn’t be criticized for showing the resolve to deal with the issues. The citizens of Aurora deserve at least this much.

    By and far the criticism laid at the feet of Mayor Morris and certain members of council is unfounded. Mayor Morris and Councilors your hard work is acknowledged by the silent majority. History will absolve you.

  8. Anonymous said

    I would like to know just how much expertise this council has in making these rash decisions of letting people with the education and experience in doing these jobs go. Who on this council has a law degree/experience? Who has the degree/experience in Human Resources? Who has the degree/experience in Finance? Who has the degree/experience in Public Relations? Where did the particular group of Morris cronies get their education from anyway? Where did they buy their degrees, if in fact they have one at all?

  9. Anonymous said

    Surely there must be something the citizens of Aurora can do before the Mayor and her band of followers bankrupt this Town. We demand to know a) how much has been paid out to staff that have left and b) how much has been spent on legal opinions from outside sources. Two more years of this type of sepdning will send us all to the poorhouse.

  10. Anonymous said

    The scuttlebutt is stating a few councillors want another director out. Staff stated they were shocked by the CAO’s forced resignation. He was admired and respected. What did he do that was so terrible to be let go? Since we all are owners of the corporation, don’t we have the right to know? We must move on but how can we let this continue? From the looks of it, this council wants the CAO and Mayor to be the same person. That’s how our corporation seems to be running anyway. There seems to be no balance.

    Has anyone totalled the lost productivity over the last few years? Can someone estimate the amount of tax dollars that have been used on needless decisions, lawyers, and severance packages, pointless improvements …

    Two more years with this council, do you think we will have anything left in our reserve fund? Does anyone have any idea on what options we may have? Would sending letters to the region or province help? Can our council be monitored by the head of the region or province?

  11. Evelyn Buck said

    Your list of exiting staff was not complete.

    Cookie Ellis the Mayor’s Administrative Assistant followed Wayne Jackson out the door.

    She terminated her connection the same day she decided the situation was no longer tolerable.

    Wayne Jackson jumped ship immediately following the Mayor’s published criticism of how he handled a difficult problem.

    Acting Director of Public Works.
    Dave Atkins has also taken his leave. He too was subjected to public humiliation in a council meeting presided over by the Mayor.

    A resident of Knowles Crescent expressed her wish for “a go-to person, not Dave Atkins, preferably Councillor MacEachern”

    The most recent departure is Robert Cambridge the town’s interim solicitor. He too gave notice and exited the same day.

    While Council gives the Mayor authority to retain solicitors whenever and for whatever purpose she chooses, Mr. Cambridge must have wondered just what was his purpose in the scheme of things.
    Even Mr. Ramunno, the new Planning Director has experienced the sting of rebuke and the baleful glare from the Mayor in a public meeting because he dared to provide an opinion to council which did not please her.

  12. Aurora Citizen said

    Excellent comment. It is our hope that this blog will be a forum for open discussion based on facts with a view to making positive change.

    The issues discussed should stand on their own merits. It must also be seen by people with a new interest in town activities as a fact based, open-minded communication vehicle.

    Thanks for your great insight.

  13. Anonymous said

    I welcome the intent of this blog, however, I think that the most effective way to bring issues to the attention of residents is to use facts and to use a considered tone when presenting those facts.
    While I think Poor Richard’s column started very well presenting a case for the level of authority that the mayor and council holds (or rather doesn’t), he does tend to lose the audience when he harkens back to days of old.
    As someone who lived in this town when Dick was mayor, I fear that if I lose interest in the case he states in his column, then what hope do we have for getting new and recent residents interested in the goings on at Town Hall.
    It can’t be the same few people writing letters to the editor of the Auroran. They can be explained away by Mayor Morris as the same few disguntled residents and/or former councillors.
    That is why I think presenting facts in a measured manner can garner more interest and more credibility. Play the long game. Mayor Morris does.

  14. Anonymous said

    I share all the concerns you both have expressed. I know for a fact that moral is very low with the staff. Many are afraid for their jobs. They believe if they cross the Mayor or one of her supporters they will be next on “the list”.

    It will take years to undo the damage this Council has done to our dedicated public service.

    Neither Council and particularly this Mayor have any idea what the actual limits of their authority are. Poor Richard’s column in this week’s Auroran explains it very well. The sad part is neither the Mayor or most of the Councillor’s will take his comments seriously. He’s forgotten more about municipal politics that any of them will ever know and yet his advice will be waved away with the flip of hand. It’s sad to watch.

  15. Anonymous said

    There’s a letter in today’s Auroran from former councillor Nigel Kean commenting on how Mayor Morris moved the Town Clerk and CAO from the inside of the horshoe to the outside. I think that was the first ‘us vs. them’ step that she carried out in public.

    What I wonder is what is her end goal? The Town has lost it’s solicitor (S. Pohjola), the Clerk is going to retire sometime soon, the CAO is gone…I wonder who she and her cronies will pick on next?

    And to what end? To bring in all her friends and supporters to work for the Town? I like the idea that town employees are MAYBE unbiased – Morrisville indeed. Yikes.

  16. Anonymous said

    This is beyond a doubt, the worst Mayor this town has seen. She’s in way over her head and isn’t bright enough to know it. She rules by intimidation, surrounds herself with puppets and gets her way by bullying staff. How do we get the residents of this town to sit up and take notice? This Mayor should be impeached.

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