No immediate plans under way to replace city’s CAO: Pender

Gary Kean
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Dale Park is seen at Monday’s city council meeting. Park is acting chief administrative officer with the city.

The City of Corner Brook says it has no reason why it has turfed out its top administrator, other than council wants the city to go in a new direction.

Since May 30, Mike Dolter was on “administrative leave,” but his termination as the city’s chief administrative officer became permanent after a vote at a privileged meeting of city council Monday.

The announcement was made by Mayor Charles Pender near the end of a public council meeting held Monday evening. Pender read out a press release later issued to the media, which stated Dolter’s firing was “on a without cause basis” and that council would not be elaborating as to why Dolter was being terminated after holding the job for more than nine years.

“The Corner Brook city council has decided that they wish to take the city in a new direction and that fresh leadership in the chief administrative officer position is required to implement this change,” said the prepared statement read by Pender. “Due to the sensitive and personal nature of this decision, council will not be providing any additional details at this time.”

After the meeting, Pender said council followed the processes dictated by the City of Corner Brook Act, the Labour Standards Act, the employment contract with Dolter and common law.

“In consultation with our advisors, we looked at all those items and then we followed the provisions of all those,” he said.

The vote by council did not have to be conducted at a public meeting. The mayor noted that council usually deals with sensitive matters pertaining to land, legal and labour issues during in-camera sessions.

“Especially anything related to human resources dealing with our employees,” he said.

Pender would not say if the vote was unanimous or if any council members had disagreed with the decision.

“We won’t get into that right now,” he said.

In terms of the new direction council wants the city to head in, Pender said that is something that will be worked out in the coming months. Included in the consideration will be the recommendations of KPMG, the consultant hired by the city to review the municipality’s operations and organizational structure.

Pender said the preliminary findings of KPMG did not influence the termination of Dolter, but it may have an impact on the job in the future.

“When we start looking at the organizational structure and other things, then we’ll start looking at what is that type of position we want to create as the head of our administration,” said the mayor.

There are no immediate plans to begin the process of finding a replacement for Dolter, said Pender. Dale Park, the city’s director of corporate services has been appointed acting chief administrative officer for the time being.

The City of Corner Brook Act states that a city manager or department head can be dismissed if two-thirds of councillors vote in favour at a meeting held no earlier than one month after a similar motion to dismiss was carried.

The Act states that a meeting of councillors may not hold a vote on a motion to dismiss unless: “(a) a written notice of the meeting signed by the councillors intending to make the motion and second it is deposited with the city clerk; and (b) a copy of the notice addressed to the person who is the subject of the motion is served on that person personally or by leaving it at his or her latest known address at least 1 week before the date of the meeting of the council at which the motion to dismiss is to be made.”

Dolter took the reins as CAO on Jan. 31, 2005 after the position was left vacant when Jim Kennedy retired 10 months prior.

He spent 19 years in the military prior to retiring to become the city’s chief administrative officer under then-Mayor Priscilla Boutcher. After graduating from Memorial University with a bachelor of commerce, Dolter went on to obtain his masters in business administration from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

He held several management positions in the military after being trained as a finance officer. He also spent a year peacekeeping in the Middle East.

Organizations: Royal Military College, Corner Brook city council, KPMG

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Dale Park, Kingston Middle East

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Recent comments

  • Chris
    June 10, 2014 - 10:15

    Jack, termination without cause is standard in a management level contract. Fred, I would say IF Pender is sweeping away the relics of the past council, that can only be considered good governance, not a vendetta.

    • Sandra
      June 10, 2014 - 11:45

      Chris, How can a city - any city - be expected to move forward if the prime agenda of every incoming council is to systematically undo EVERYTHING done in the previous council? That's not good governance, it's spitefulness and inflated ego. From my limited understanding of, and exposure to Corner Brook municipal politics, this seems to be the norm. In my humble opinion, it is one of the largest problems this city faces.

  • Fred
    June 10, 2014 - 07:36

    I suspect the real reason Dolter was let go has a lot to do with the mayor's personal vendetta to eradicate any presence of previous councils and the decisions they made.

    • Sandra
      June 10, 2014 - 11:36

      BINGO! Someone give this man a prize...

  • Jack
    June 10, 2014 - 06:52

    Since the Corner Brook Act conflicts with Employment Law with respect to CAO or Department Head firings, perhaps now is the time for this outdated piece of legislation to be reformed to put it in line with Employment Laws. Under Employment Law, a person can only be fired for one of these four reasons including gross misconduct, gross incompetence, criminal behaviour, and/or substance abuse. These are known as "just cause" reasons. By firing Mike Dolter for no legitimate reason, Corner Brook City Council creates a perception that they are "above the law" which is wrong, potentially setting themselves up for a "Wrongful Dismissal" suit. Corner Brook City Council, from now on, if you want to hire administrators, you must have a legitimate reason for it, Corner Brook Act or not, or have to accept the legal consequences of it.